Sacred Spaces: Agios Stefanos (Syros Island)

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On Syros Island, located in the area of Galissas, is, perhaps, one of the most unique chapels in the world: Agios Stefanos.  Built in a small cavern in the rocks, the chapel consists of just two walls (the rocks serve as floor and ceiling). 

Agios Stefanos was built by a fisherman who had been caught by the tentacles of a large octopus.  He prayed for St. Stephen to help release him and was saved.  In his gratitude, the fisherman erected a small chapel for the saint.  “This stunning white chapel in the rocky landscape of the area is known for its unique and simple beauty.”  Grand views of the water, along with the chapel’s relative isolation, give the area a sense of beautiful serenity. 

“Agios Stefanos is celebrated on the 19th of August and on December the 26th. Hordes of people visit the chapel to attend the liturgy.  Following the liturgy all pilgrims are offered “loukoumi” the sweet local delights as well as mastic from Chios.” 

The Life of St. Stephen

Icon by the hand of Dn. Matthew Garrett. Via

St. Stephen, a relative of St. Paul,“was the first of seven deacons whom the holy apostles ordained for the service of the poor in Jerusalem.”  This thus earned him the name of Archdeacon.  During his time in Jerusalem, St. Stephen worked many miracles (by the power of his faith) and did much to help the poor and suffering. 

His good deeds, however, made for jealous enemies who would argue with St. Stephen.  Their arguments were always defeated by Stephen’s quiet wisdom, though. Eventually, St. Stephen’s enemies, frustrated with their inability to better the saint, began to spread rumors about him.  They said that he blasphemed against God, but the people of Jerusalem, however, knew the truth.  They saw that:

“[…]his face was illumined by the light of grace as was the face of Moses when he talked with God. Stephen opened his mouth and spoke about all of God’s marvelous works and miracles, performed in the past for the people of Israel, and he told of the peoples’ continued disobedience and ingratitude for what He had done.”

Thwarted once again, St. Stephen’s enemies stoned him to death.  This violent act was witnessed by St. John the Theologian and  the Mother of God and who prayed for Stephen, “this first martyr for the truth of her Son and God.” 

After his death, St. Stephen’s body and relics were secretly buried by the prince Gamaliel.  The relics were later brought to Jerusalem where they were properly buried.  Years later, they were taken to Constantinople.  The relics had a special aura around them, healing the infirm and other associated miracles. 

Tour Agios Stefanos

The video below offers a wonderful look into the chapel and the beautiful views surrounding it (click here to view directly on YouTube). 

Sacred Spaces Blog Series

Want to learn more about the world’s most unique and fascinating sacred spaces? Follow the links below to other pieces from our Sacred Spaces blog series!

Basilica di San Marco (Venice) | St. Issac’s Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | Monastery of the Kiev Caves (Kiev) | St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (St. Petersburg) | The Duomo (Florence) | The Hagia Sophia (Istanbul) | Cathedral of St. Sophia (Novgorod) | Church of Our Savior on  Spilled Blood (St. Petersburg) | The Church of the Ascension (Kolomenskoye) | St. Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow) |The Churches of Kizhi Pogost | Monastery of Panagia Elona | Smolny Cathedral (St. Petersburg)

Main image via
The Life of Saint Stephen the Deacon and First Martyr –
Agios Stefanos –
Agios Stefanos –
Agios Stefanos in Syros named one of the most impressive chapels in the world –
Agios Stefanos Cave –

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