The Metropolis of Paronaxia, also referred to as the Diocese of Paronaxia, is under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece. Churches, chapels and monasteries are spread all over these islands and are one of the main characteristics of this metropolis and scenery of the area. Most were mainly built in the 16th and 17th centuries when the separate bishoprics of Paros and Naxos were at their heights. Today, the diocese sports a total of about 37 churches, 251 chapels, 18 cemeteries, 18 monasteries and around 35 clerics.
The islands of Naxos, Paros and Anti-Paros cut-off in 1083 from the Metropolis of Rhodes and were established as the Metropolitan of Paronaxia, with the headquarters based in Naxos. Up until 1083, Naxos and Paros were simply Bishoprics.
Christianity in Paronaxia spread during the early Christian period, and the bishoprics were considered among the original established churches, not just in Greece, but of all Christianity. The local ecclesiastical tradition of Naxos, however, affirms that christianity was spread by St. John the Theologian and the evangelist Polycarp of Smyrna (68-155). While St. John was exiled on the island of Patmos, he was authoring the Apocalypse and heard about the island of Naxos. He sent his student, Polycarp, to the island to spread christianity to the locals. This ecclesiastical tradition is honoured greatly on Naxos. There are two parishes and various Byzantine chapels on the island, dedicated to his honour, especially at the village of Sagriou. There is an old Byzantine monastery and church with wall reliefs from the iconoclastic period that is still preserved in the area of Filoti.
The most important historical, ecclesiastical and architectural structure on the island is the Church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Ekatontapyliani - Gr. literally: "Hundred Doors"). This church was founded, early in the fourth century, by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. She also founded other smaller churches on the island of Paros, including the churches of St. Stephanos, St. Matthew, St. John of Gyroula and St. George, and others.
During the 5th century, many of the Bishops from Naxos and Paros took part in the Ecumenical Councils. Some of these Bishops include:
- 'Varahos', Bishop of Naxos - participated 451AD
- 'George', Bishop of Naxos - participated 680AD
- 'Athanasius A', Bishop of Paros - participated 431AD and 451AD
- 'Stephanos', Bishop of Paros - participated 680AD
These Bishops are commemorated, by the Metropolis of Paronaxia, along with the local saints of the see.
In the Byzantine times, the islands suffered from the pirates. During the 13th century, the Venetians occupied the islands and they belonged to Naxos Dutchy and were ruled by Venetian families. In 1537 it was plundered by Barbarosa; soon after, it was occupied by the Turks. In 1770, the Russians started to fortity the islands. The islands took part in the War of Independence of 1821.
Panagia Ekatontapyliani (also known as Katopyliani)
The Church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani is one of the most significant Byzantine monuments of Greece. It is situated in the east of the old town of Paros. The church was renovated in 1962 by the professor An. Orlandos. In the 4th cent, there was a little church on the site of the contemporary church. The little church had been on the site of an ancient Greek building. This initial building has been extended while the church got to its contemporary structure during the era of the emperor Justinianos (6th cent). The interior of the church demonstrates, apart from the marble temple, the icon of the Theotokos on the left of the entrance; it is considered to be the work of St Apostle Luke. The tomb of St. Theoktisti, the Episcopal throne behind the Altar and the protochristian "Vaptistirion" (the christening place). The church celebrates its feast day August 15.
The locals believe that the first monastics and ascetics would have been from the Middle East, since it is common knowledge that the earliest known monastic establishments were in Vithynia and Cappadocia. It is estimated, therefore, that the earliest monastic establishments would be between the 6th and 7th centuries.
The current Metropolitan of Paronaxia is His Eminence Ambriosios II (Stamenas) of Paronaxia, born in 1922 on the island of Paros. He was elected and consecrated as the current metropolitan in 1991, replacing His Eminence Epifanios (Kalafatis).
- What we know about St. Theoktisti we owe primarily to St. Symeon Metaphrastes ("the Translator"), renowned primarily for his Lives of the Saints (148 of them).
- Theoctiste is from Lesbos, however, due to the archaeological and historical importance of her association with the Church of Panagia Ekatontapyliani - Hundred Doors she is also classified as a Parian local saint.