Archangel Michael of Mantamados
Monastery of the Taxiarchis
On the island of Lesvos, one can visit this miraculous icon at the Byzantine Monastery of the Taxiarchis (Archangel) Michael in the district of Mantamados. This monastery is situated in the northeast part of Lesvos, 36 km from Mytilini. The history of this monastery and the icon is closely connected to the history of the island of Lesvos.
This is a famous monastery, made of stone. The monastery was most probably abandoned in 1462 the year of the island’s occupation by the Ottoman Turks.. In the past, the monastery functioned as a men’s convent and is first mentioned in a 1661 ecclesiastical document. The small church within the monastery originally dates from the 17th century but was replaced by larger church in the 18th century. The present church (cathedral) was constructed in 1879 and follows a three-aisled basilica architectural type. The monastery is structured para-metrically around this church.
There are two accounts surrounding the date of this icon, one having to do with the Ottoman Turkish occupation and destruction of 1462, and the other with Saracen pirates during the 9th and 10th centuries during which the entire island was invaded.
In either case, one of the main targets was the monastery of the Taxiarchis, where the invaders slaughtered all of the monks in the monastery. One novice-monk, however, in his attempt to escape, climbed up the roof, and was pursued. As his attackers closed in on him, the Archangel Michael appeared in front of the Saracens with his own sword drawn and forced them to retreat in a panic. Thanks to this miracle from the Archangel the monk survived, the sole surviver from among his brotherhood.
The monk was in such deep respect and reverence for having witnessed the Archangel Michael in all his fury, that he decided to recreate the image while it was still vivid in his memory. Not having any other tools but that of clay and the blood of the martyred monks, he began to sculpt the image. The monk did not have enough clay to work with and so the head of the Archangel has turned out disproportionally larger than the rest of his body.
This icon, is now kept within the interior of the church. Many islanders claim to have had personal experiences of miracles being granted for them by Mantamados. This is evident by the numerous cabinets full of ‘tagmata’ to the Archangel housed inside the church. To this day, pilgrims to this church have mixed emotions regarding this icon. At times, the expression on the icon can appear severe, sad or happy according to the message that the Archangel wants to convey to that pilgrim or the faithful. This is the legend of the much-celebrated icon of Mantamados and is the only carved icon (in relief) in existence in Orthodoxy.