November 8, 2023

The Monastery of the Pammegiston Taxiarchon in Nenita of Chios and Its Lifesize Icon of the Archangel Michael

Nenita, a large village of Chios which oversees the olive groves and the coast, is about 18 kilometers from the town of Chios and 2 kilometers from the sea. During medieval times, Nenita was the largest village of all the mastic villages (a series of fortified villages built in the 14th century during Genovese rule, from 1346-1566) with 2.5 thousand inhabitants, while today it has approximately 1180 inhabitants. Nenita is now one of the largest villages of Chios with rich social and cultural activity. Despite the intense movement of the population from the villages to the city, a phenomenon that is observed in most of the villages of the island, Nenita remains a lively and populous village that is upgraded year by year. The inhabitants of Nenita engage in agriculture and produce mastic, olives, olive oil, almonds and grapes. Nenita is one of the 21 villages (Mastichoria) of southern Chios where the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus) is cultivated, only there and nowhere else in the world, and from which mastic is extracted.

The Monastery of the Pammegiston Taxiarchon in Nenita was founded in 1305 in honor of the Dormition of the Theotokos, by the nun Xeni, who came from Vassileoniko. Therefore, initially the monastery was dedicated to the Panagia and had 87 nuns. In 1306 it was renamed the "Taxiarchon Monastery", after a miraculous finding of the Icon of the Archangel Michael.

According to tradition, in 1306 in a monastery in the Peloponnese, a hieromonk named Parthenios saw in his sleep the Archangel Michael and he ordered him to make his icon exactly as he saw him and send it to the monastery in Nenita, Chios. The Elder asked curiously how to send the icon to Chios. The Archangel told him that as soon as he finishes it, to write his name on the back of the icon and throw it into the sea and it will go to its destination on its own. So the Elder made the icon as he saw the Archangel, with the impressive dimensions five feet and nine inches high by three feet and nine inches wide, and he threw it into the sea.

In Thymiana in the area of Mega Limniona, one day the priest of the village saw a glow in the sea and on going to see it he found the icon of the Archangel. Glorifying God for allowing him to see this miracle, he went and announced the discovery of the icon to his fellow villagers. They took the icon and considered it a good sign for their village since at that time they were building a new church in the village and decided that the church should be dedicated to the Archangel Michael.

At night, however, the head builder saw the Taxiarchis in his sleep who told him that they should take him to the monastery in Nenita. The head builder did not believe the dream and the next night he saw him again, and again was told that he should be brought to the monastery in Nenita. The head builder was then horrified and reported it to the people, but they did not want to part with the majestic icon of the Archangel and did not listen to him. But the next night the head builder again saw the Taxiarchis in his sleep, this time however he was very fierce-looking and threatened the head builder and the people of Thymiana that they should not disobey him and that he would punish them if they did not carry out his order.

The morning of the next day, while the head builder was climbing the scaffolding, something pushed him and knocked him down, but he was unharmed. Seeing this he was immediately frightened, and the head builder and people of Thymiana decided to be sure and not to suffer greater harm, so they carried out the order of the Taxiarchis, and with a procession they started to bring the icon of the Archangel to Nenita.

That same night at the monastery, the Abbess dreamed that the next day a military official would come to the monastery to visit them and therefore they and the monastery should prepare to receive him. After announcing to the nuns what she heard, they prepared the monastery and went out into the road and waited for the arrival of the military official, while not knowing who he was or what kind of official will visit them. The next day this crowd of people were approaching the monastery, and they were afraid that they were pirates (at the time the Saracens were still ravaging the islands), so they ran to enter the monastery to protect themselves. Abbess Xeni, however, did not move from her position, and this attitude of hers made the other nuns to stay with her. And indeed after a while they saw a procession of people holding in their hands an icon that flashed in the morning light. The Taxiarchis had come home.

With psalms and with all pomp they took the icon and placed it in the katholikon on the left side of the iconostasis, according to the rules that exist for the placement of icons inside the temple. In the evening, however, a great noise was heard inside the temple, and when the nuns entered to see where it was coming from and what was happening, they saw the icon of the Taxiarchis on the right of the Beautiful Gate in the place where the icon of the Panagia went. They put it back in its place, but this was repeated two more times. The third time in fact, the nuns found the icon wedged in the marble step of the iconostasis. They understood that this was the wish of the Archangel, and since then the icon is on the right of the Beautiful Gate, where normally the icon of the Panagia should be.

The nuns, as we have seen, did not dare to change the position of the icon and, according to legend, only when after some time the Bishop visited the monastery and saw this violation of the rule and not believing the nuns, he ordered them to place the icon in its normal position and to bind it on the wall so it can't move. Then an angel entered the temple and delivered a message to the Bishop, after which the Bishop immediately fell before the image and began to cry and beg the Taxiarchis to forgive him for wanting to remove him from his place. So the icon went back to the place of the Panagia and since then no one dared to move it until today.

The area where the monastery is built is an arid area, therefore the nuns had to carry water from afar in pitchers. Abbess Xeni brought well diggers to find where there is water, and to dig a well. Workers came and started digging for whole days, but they couldn't find water. On the last day when the workers would work, Xeni asked to go down to the dry well. They actually tied her with a rope. She took with her a small chisel and an icon of the Taxiarchis and went down to the bottom of the well. She struck the ground three times with her chisel saying "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" and with the third time she struck a vein of water which flooded the well with such momentum that she was in danger of drowning. From then until today the well always has water, even when all the other wells in the area run dry. Every day, even today, at 2 in the afternoon a paraklesis is chanted in memory of the miracle that gave water to the monastery.

During the earthquake of 1881, the monastery was badly damaged and 46 of the nuns were killed.

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, there is a great procession with the icon being carried around the village.

The icon of the Taxiarchis is miraculous, and according to the faithful it proves its power to this day.

The Taxiarchon Monastery in Nenita celebrates annually on November 8th.




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