A monument of great importance in Kassiopi is the church of Panagia Kassopitra. Until the 5th century, on this site, stood a temple dedicated to Cassius Zeus, which was an important place of pagan worship. Over the centuries, the church was perceived to be a locale where miracles occurred. Panagia Kassopitra was considered the patron saint of sailors, who prayed to her as they passed through the straits of Kassiopi.
Visitors talked about a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary and a candle that burned incessantly, only needing re-filling once a year, on St. Nicholas Day.
Panagia Kassopitra, the miracle
The greatest miracle occurred in May 1530, according to Orthodox belief. A young man named Stephanos was blinded after being unjustly accused of theft; his punishment being having his eyes removed. He went to the Holy Monastery in Kassiopi and dreamed of the Virgin Mary in his sleep.
The Holy Virgin miraculously restored his vision and he woke with a new pair of green eyes in place of where his brown ones had previously been. The news spread all over the island and to the rest of Greece.The church was destroyed during the Turkish attack in 1537, and what was considered valuable plundered. Cassiopeia was almost leveled by the attackers. Panagia Kassopitra did not survive the onslaught; however, the miraculous image was saved by divine intervention. If that sounds like an exaggeration, the French Baron Blancard attests to it is in his campaign diary.Baron, at that time, was the leader of the French Armada and was fighting on the side of their allies, the Turks. Blancard, although an ally of the enemies, did not cease to be a Christian. Three days after the attack, he sailed with his fleet for the port of Cassiopeia to see if the church had survived the offensive only to find the church decimated.The roof had collapsed inside the church, only the walls remained standing. It was full of rubble and animal entrails, the valuables had been removed and the church had been generally looted by the Turks. An intact image of the Virgin Mary remained, adorned with silver vows. Baron was surprised by this exception made by the Turks.
It was reported that during the pillaging, a Turkish soldier tried to remove the vows, but when he touched the image he became blind. The other soldiers did not dare to disturb her. After hearing this, Blancard prayed in front of the image before leaving. The miraculous icon of Panagia Kassopitra that gave sight to Stefanos, removed it from the blasphemer who dared to deride her. During the Venetian years, the church was reconstructed in the form of a typical Roman Catholic Church, which is preserved to this day. Today the signs of this monument’s timelessness are clearly visible. Externally, the church has the appearance of a Catholic Church that was built in the 16th century, as was reconstruction by the Venetians in 1580.
Inside, it has Byzantine frescoes of the 11th and 16th centuries, Byzantine and Catholic icons and other imprints of the past. In a prominent position, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary dominates, blessing the believers, as she did for Stefanos.
Every year on the 15th of August, the festival of Kassiopi takes place in the port with a lot of food and an orchestra with traditional Corfiot songs. Panagia Kassopitra is considered one of the most important pilgrimages in Corfu.
ΣΑΡΑΚΗΝΟΥ, Ελένη (2015). “Κασσιόπη: ένα μικρό μέρος με τεράστια ιστορία”, Synthesis, Kέρκυρα
ΠΑΝΤΕΛΙΔΗ, Κέλλυ (2016). “Northeastern Corfu: paradise regained”, Εκδόσεις CorfuPress, Κέρκυρα, σελ. 49-52
ΡΑΔΙΟΦΩΝΙΚΟΣ ΣΤΑΘΜΟΣ | Αγ. Σπυρίδων 91.1 fm. “Ιερός Ναός Παναγίας Κασσωπίτρας (Κασσιώπη)”, https://imcorfu.gr/ekklisies-mones/%CE%B9%CE%B5%CF%81%CF%8C%CF%82-%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%8C%CF%82-%CF%80%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%83%CF%83%CF%89%CF%80%CE%AF%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B1%CF%82/