The little feast of Saint Onoufrios

St. Onoufrios is a chapel in a little side street behind the Diplos grocery store on the main street at the Old Market.

“He used to
be worshipped by refugees from Asia Minor and sailors from the Dodecanese, especially Symians and Kalymnians, the families of Onoufrios Hatzipetrou, Giorgos Tsantirakis, Kastrounis, Parais, Katris and others», Mrs Koula Hralambous informed us. She and her brother Manolis own the oldest grocery store of Paroikia called Diplos. Member of the Castle-Old Market Initiative, and carrying the living memory of her parents Dimitrios and Aspasia, who had been curating the chapel since 1950, Mrs Koula told us about it and about the Saint’s namesake festival on 12 June with love and nostalgia:

The oil lamp had never been put out until 12 June 2009, when the key was handed to the Parish Priest after the service. It used to be opened by our father until late at night, especially in summer. During the day it was being looked after by the whole family, particularly by Manolis. It was decorated by our mother on the day of the festival and remained like that till September. The wreaths on the altar screen were made up of bouquets of sage, oregano and basil.

The fragrant flowers on the screen spread their aromas in the chapel and outside, all passers by would stop to enjoy the smell. White aprons were hung on the three screen icons and the altar. Stands were decorated with bay leaves, the chapel door with bougamville branches, the Kastro steps with flags and myrtle and bouquets of flowers all along the road to Agora and Vrisi (fountain).

There was no electricity, or wooden chandeliers with candles. The church service was just like the old times, simple and subtle. Magic was emitted from the candle light in the wooden filled with sand candle stand. On the table next to it there were leaflets telling the tale of the Saint’s life, which had been compiled by the then trainee and now parish priest Rev. Stelios Bizas.

Stands and benches were available for pilgrims to have a rest. Two days earlier pilgrims from all over and nuns would arrive. If it fell on a Sunday the service would take place normally except for the day of the Pentecost, when after the evening service the icon was carried to the parish church of the Holy Angels ready for next day’s mass. A litany would bring it back to its place, where Rev. Petros would give out the Eucharist bread, signal the end of mass and outside under the vault there would be treats with or without coffee, refreshments, home made desserts, meze (snacks) and suma (strong local drink).

On the festival day the icon stand and the candle table with the leaflets were placed outside on either side of the door so that there would be enough space for the congregation. Rugs were placed on the steps across and the six benches under the vault gave enough resting opportunities for passers by and visitors.

It’s the only chapel dedicated to St. Onoufrios on the whole island and the only one which was open inside the Kastro, every day, every month, every year, all the years. At high noon lots of visitors used to come to our little chapel. Some to calm down and get strength, others to pray (and they are priests today), others to concentrate and study because of lack of space in their little houses, students at the time but today quite distinguished”.

Two years ago, after the initiative of tourist guide Christina Fokianou and in collaboration with the Initiative Team, the Innovari* came to the St. Onoufrios festival, with students of the University of Indianapolis. “They tasted the home made meze from Levantis restaurant and were treated refreshments by Giorgos Kapoutsos. Souvenirs were also offered. Small details made our little fair unique and special” concludes Mrs Koula.

* Innovaros, from “innovation” and “Paros”, is a team promoting viable growth and responsible tourism through the use of emerging technologies.