The historical Monastery of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Kathara, or “Panagia Kathariotissa”, as it is well-known, looks out over the whole island from a height of 556 meters on the south-eastern side of the Homeric mountain of Niritos.
The life of the Monastery begins around 1696 but the history of the Icon of the Nativity of the Theotokos, to which the Monastery is dedicated, is even older and is shrouded within the age-old tradition of the island. The title “Kathariotissa” was received, according to tradition, because the Icon was discovered in the ash of the burning “kathara”, a word which in the local dialect is used for dry twigs and brush that are cut and burnt so as to clear an area.
In 1830 the historic monastery had reached its peak as rich donations and offerings were made. This financial strength enabled the monastery to play a significant role in the revolution of 1821, assisting wounded fighters and harbouring others who were being hounded. From 1880 to 1910 the monastery suffered financially. In 1917 the abbot Ierotheos Kallinikos began an effort to renovate the monastery. This was supported by all Ithacans including the ship-owners. This effort was continued by the last abbot Samuel Molfesis. In 1993 the Ithacan monk Theodosios Vlismas settled in the monastery and, to this day, with the assistance of Ithacans everywhere, labours to continue the renovation
The Monastery of the Panagia Kathariotissa celebrates on September 8, the feast day of the Nativity of the Theotokos. A smaller feast day takes place on September 14, the Day of the Holy Cross, when according to tradition and because it is a fasting day, boiled broad-beans are given to the pilgrims.
The whole life of the Island is interwoven with the Kathariotissa and her Monastery. Twice in the past, after the earthquakes of 1928 and in March of 1954, after the earthquakes of 1953, the Icon of the Holy Virgin was transported from her Monastery to Vathy, the capital of the island. All the inhabitants accompanied the procession on foot, a fact that shows that the people of Ithaca place their trust in Her and take courage and hope from Her in their difficult times.
1 Presbyter Th. I. Dendrinos, The Monastery of the Panagia of Kathara of Ithaca. Ithaca, 2000.