Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Kos, the bird, and Saint Phanourios


Kos is shaped like a bird, leaning down into the sea. Perhaps it's looking for food or for another of its own kind. It may be gazing at its own reflection but I think it's looking beyond that, right down into the depths of the sea, mesmerized by what it sees.

Northern coast

Near Kefalos, barley field in high wind

The brown eye in the centre of its head, in profile, is Mount Theologis. But I discover as I cycle along the road that this mountain is a series of pine covered peaks and the road to Agios Ioannis winds its way through them. Sometimes you look out over the northern sea sometimes the southern one, as the road climbs ever higher, in a series of switchbacks.

The bird's neck is narrow, it looks to be only about two or three kilometers wide and at one point you look out over the bay and you can see across the neck to the sea on the other side. 

South coast (right) and north coast (on the horizon)

Then the road slips round another peak and it’s the northern shore you see. Some visual illusion makes this sea look as if it climbs halfway up the sky, its horizon is higher than you are.  

At the edge of the narrow road the ground drops precipitously and at some points I have to look away, look straight ahead to avoid even looking at the sea because that is to be aware of the cavernous gulf that lies between me and it. The wind is fierce and makes a howling noise as if it doesn't like me being there, it moans and pushes me across the narrow road whose surface has partially crumbled away turning it into a track littered with small stones. I clutch the handlebars grimly because I know how dangerous stones on the road can be.

The end of the track is the headland and the bird's head, the end of the island where the two seas meet. It feels like the end of the world, stony, desolate, deserted. Something about this place makes me uneasy.

Now, back home and safe on my balcony, I think I recognise the feeling. Then, I did not, for that is part of its strangeness. You don't recognise it or yourself. It’s a feeling of creeping alienation and I've felt it before. This is Pan's world and it's not the friendly nature that we live with, that we've planted, tended, shaped and watered, encouraged to grow and delighted in its green flourishing.

I pedal fast back along the windy ledge of road and once I reach the switchbacks it takes no time at all to swoop down them and when I reach the pine wood and the little shaded water tap in a clearing by the side of the road with a row of colourful beehives just above it, it feels welcoming and protective. I am so glad to be back in the outskirts of Kefalos. 

The other road from Kefalos leads to this little church, in a landscape of spiny bushes, shrubs and wild thyme. It's as if no one has ever visited it since the ending of the last story and the door was closed. Something stirs a faint memory - of this other life, this other story. And  at the same time it's as if someone has just left, there are slim brown beeswax candles burning and a feeling of presence. Time vanishes like a burst bubble.

What you thought lost in the past, you rediscover here. This feeling is as different from the one in Pan’s domain, as it could be. This is welcoming, rediscovery, expansion of awareness and memory. The feeling of being blessed.

I wrote the above while I was sitting outside this church, underneath the little tree whose branches you can see in the photograph. There was a small white chair provided. 

And though there were many icon paintings in this little church, I only took a photograph of this one, as it caught my attention. 

I knew nothing about the saint and it’s only now, back home, that I look him up. It turns out that Agios Phanourios is ‘The Revealer’. An icon of him was first discovered in Rhodos (or Cyprus) in a pristine condition in 14th or 15th century AD.

Orthodoxwiki says:
'Saint Phanourios has become famous for assisting the faithful in revealing lost or hidden spiritual matters of the heart, objects, directing or revealing actions that should be taken, restoring health and similar situations.'

Another image of him:

Photo credit:

I went to Kos specifically to visit the Asklepion (which I’ll write about later). But it was beside this little deserted church at the southernmost tip of the island (or near the top of the bird’s head ) that I felt this sense of peace, presence and blessing.


three sea horses said...

I love the little church and am rather taken with the saint.
an interesting post, as usual, lovely to read :-) xx

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Lovely post and photos...the light is stunning. Interesting that a contemplation chair was provided! I like the saints with their trance-like or devotional expressions - quite other worldly...

dritanje said...

Thanks three sea horses, and yes Isn't the saint a great find? That's one of the things I really like about the Orthodox church these saints,no matter how severe they look sometimes, are really on your side, and present for you (or so I feel) there's not this great lonely gulf between you and God M xx

dritanje said...

Thanks Ruby, yes the light in Greece is spectacular, as is well everything about this land. I remember when it struck me, not the first time I was in Greece or even the second time, but it was a summer evening in Thessaloniki and I remember how it hit me , that this land is truly blessed. And the chair left by the tree outside the church that's just one of the things about the Orthodox church that is so human and intimate and why I really like it. M xx

Anonymous said...

in Polish "kos" means "blackbird" :) so you know what bird exactly :)

dritanje said...

Anonymous, thanks for that, you are right, now I know exactly what kind of bird it is! :)