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Ekatontapiliani

The Temple of Panagia of Ekatontapiliani, one of the most important early Christian monuments in Greece, is the sacred jewel in Paros' crown. It is located in the northeast section of Parikia, just steps away from the port. The history of Ekatontapiliani begins in Byzantine legends, as it was likely constructed in the 4th century.

Agia Eleni, mother of Constantine the Great, stopped at Paros on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land to find the Holy Cross, in order to visit a small church, one of the first to be built for the new religion. She prayed and vowed to build a large church on that very same site if she found the Holy Cross. Her prayer was heard and Agia Eleni found the Cross and fulfilled her vow. According to a different legend, the temple was built by Constantine the Great at the request of his mother, who wasn't able to fulfill her vow.

The original, wooden, single-aisle cruciform basilica church was destroyed, possibly by fire. It was rebuilt in the Justinian era with arches and a dome. According to legend, the Justinian temple of Ekatontapiliani was built by a disciple of the master who constructed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

The church was tested by many destructions and pillages during the Frankish and Turkish domination. However, the greatest disaster endured by the church was the earthquake of 1773. The subsequent repairs marred its original imposing form. Restoration of Ekatontapiliani began in 1959, and the temple currently maintains its Justinian form: cruciform basilica with a dome.

The sculptures that adorn the temple come from the ancient temple of Demeter that once stood in the port of Parikia. The ancient baptistery is in the south section of the church and dates back to the 4th century, the most ancient and best-preserved baptistery of the Orthodox east. The oldest fresco found on the island can be seen in the baptistery, dating from the 11th-12th century and depicting Agios Georgios. Ekatontapiliani houses the Byzantine Museum of Parikia, with rare pictures, wood carvings and other religious relics from the Byzantine era and Turkish occupation.

The largest festival of the island is the feast of Panagia on 15 August, both a religious festival and a large folk festival.

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