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Agios Pachomios near Tsikalario

Near the village of Tsikalarió lies the chapel of St Pachomios, one of the many small Byzantine churches scattered around the island. It is of interest to us here because it is linked to the history of the Venetian fortress of Apáno Kástro. It is said that it was a tradition among the Greek orthodox population of the area to pass small or weak children through an opening above the door of the church so that they would grow fat and strong (derived from the name of the Saint: pachí = fat). When the Catholic Venetian rulers at the end of the 13th century tried to keep the Greek villagers from practising this “pagan” custom, this raised such an uproar among the Greek population, who was excessively oppressed and exploited by the Venetians, that the Doukas Markos Sanoudo the Second, grandson of the conqueror and first Venetian ruler of the island, had a strong fortress built close to the village of Tsikalarió in order to intimidate the Greeks: the Apáno Kástro.

The small church of St Pachomios is located a little north of the village of Tsikalarió.

View back to the villages of Tsikalarió (front centre) and Damalás (back left)

The church has a inner court covered by a roof. Here, standing in the vestibule, you can see the actual entrance to the church with the famous hole above the door.

Traditionally small or weak children were passed through this hole by the Orthodox villagers to make them fat and strong.

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