Easter at Lady of Cyclades
A heavenly alliance
Syros Island is known as the Lady of Cyclades. Here’s one explanation for how it got this name: it’s the special and awe-inspiring experience people share here during the Easter period. The island is one of the few places in the whole world, where the Catholic Community – the largest in Greece – and the Orthodox Community go through the period of Christ’s Passion in an atmosphere of devoutness which has sealed their centuries-old harmonious co-existence.
Orthodox and catholic customs in harmony
On Good Friday locals and visitors go out on the streets, following the Epitaphios (every church prepares one), as is the practice throughout the country. What’s particular about Syros is that there’s an Epitaphios procession that starts from every church in Ermoupoli town – be it catholic or orthodox. Catholic processions start from San-Tzortzi church in Ano Syros (or Ano Syra) area and from Evangelistria Church in Ermoupoli and orthodox processions begin from the churches of St. Nicholas, the Dormition of the Mother of God, and the Transfiguration of Christ. In the place of Cherubim symbols carried along with the orthodox Epitaphios, Catholics carry cloaks, sponges and dice hanging from poles, which symbolise the Passion of Christ.
The processions all meet in central Miaouli Square facing the Town Hall where Good Friday hymns are chanted by the chorus of St. Nicholas’ orthodox parish. The feelings of piety and spiritual uplifting create an atmosphere of emotive harmony that is so rare to find anywhere else.
In Syros, it is customary for the congregation to bang the church pews, after the “Christ is Risen” chant, on Holy Saturday morning during the first Resurrection mass.
You will be very impressed during your visit to the catholic monastery of St. George (San Tzortzi) in Ano Syros or to the orthodox church of the Resurrection of Christ, on Dili hilltop, for the celebration of the midnight mass. You will greatly enjoy the feast of colours lighting up the sky as fireworks are set off from the two hills towering over Ermoupoli. And luckily enough, if the atmosphere is very clear, you will be able to discern the fireworks lighting up the distant horizon in the Aegean Sea, set off from Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos islands.
After chanting “Christ is Risen” the Catholics follow the procession with the statue of Christ placed ahead and covered in flowers.