Over one hundred monasteries on a small island. In our ten or so days there out of season, perfect in memory, time out of time we visited eight: from Agios Emilianos on its own rocky islet, the wind blowing hard, to Panormitis, the great foundation to which thousands of pilgrims return each November, to Kokormitis at the head of the highest mountain, from where the whole island could be seen in its context the dark sea showing the patterns of the wind, the hills of Asia to the east, distant other islands.

What is it that the landscape connects us to, leading us to build our shrines in such wild, sublime places? The monastery of Sotiros Mikros, hidden among crags and pine woods and dry stone-walled goat pastures, a distant view to the sea, was built up from the walls of a temple to Zeus, over three thousand years old. Is there something inherently numinous in these places, to which mankind has always been sensitive?

Sitting alone on the crag above the Sotiros Mikros, the sun dipping to the the horizon, the wind rising in the pines... could that be Dionysos, stirring among the trees?

Words by James Seaton.

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