Parish of the Holy Unmercenary Healers, Portaria
A Brief History
The Church of the Holy Unmercenaries (feast days: July 1 and November 1) was constructed between 1791-1801. The templon and its icons date between 1835-1845. The iconography on the walls probably dates, in part, to this time period as well, although at least one later hand seems to have renovated them extensively in 1935, possibly due to damage.
The central polyelaios dates to the middle of the 19th century and hails from Rostov, Russia. It was retrofitted with electricity in 1960, and thoroughly cleaned and renovated in 2012.
According to a marble inscription, the exo-narthex was added to the exterior of the temple in 1845. The two side chapels, attached to the exterior of the temple, seem to have been added around the same time. The northern chapel is dedicated to St. Anthony (January 17), and the small southern chapel is dedicated to St. Athanasius the Athonite (July 5) and St. Tryphon (February 1). They were both renovated in 2013.
A point of interest is that, among the memoirs of Fr. Antonios Mouchtis, the parish’s priest from 1890-1936, is an account of his experiences with the famous Greek writer Alexandros Papadiamantis, who chanted in the temple during his visits to Portaria. (His brother and sisters lived in a house between the temple and today’s Despotiko Hotel.)
His grandson, Georgios Tsibanoulis, recounts: “I don’t know what year it was, but it was the (fifth) Wednesday in Great Lent in which the so-called ‘Great Canon’ (of St. Andrew of Crete) is read at Vespers. My grandfather stood at the Beautiful Gate, holding in his hand the book containing the Great Canon, and started to read the hymns by the light of the candle. There was no chanter and he thus had to read them by himself. And there was a lot to read. He read the hymn and began to read the second when a man, who was standing on the right side of the church, in front of the column, began to chant the second. My grandfather chanted the third, this unknown man the fourth, and so on until the end of the long Great Canon—my grandfather from his book and this unknown man without any book. My grandfather, who was struggling to make out the words with the meager light of the candle, was soaked with a cold sweat, while this unknown man recited the words with ease. My grandfather noted, ‘I was still a young priest….’ When the Great Canon concluded, my grandfather walked back into the sanctuary. By the time he came out, the stranger had left. In his nervousness, the only thing my grandfather was able to remember was the man’s humble clothing. As he then learned, it was Papadiamantis who had so impressed him with his knowledge. The next day, my grandfather went to the house of Papadiamantis’ brother, George, who was secretary of the municipality, in order to meet Papadiamantis, and he remarked about the man’s simplicity, humility, and wisdom.”
Another point of historical interest: Built into the templon, within the altar, above the southern door, is a long wooden box that once contained weapons. This must pre-date 1881, when Volos and the surrounding area was liberated from the Ottoman Empire and became part of the Kingdom of Greece.
The parish, which occupies the southwestern half of Portaria, includes six other chapels (see map). The largest “chapel” was originally the main temple (katholikon) of a monastery. Dedicated to Sts. Constantine and Helen (May 21), it was built in 1861. The ruins of some of the former men’s monastery’s cells lie along the north side of the church. The parish celebrates here the feasts of Sts. Constantine and Helen, and the Universal Elevation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14). Like the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries, it features two side chapels built around 1867. The northern chapel is dedicated to St. Menas (Nov. 11), while the southern one seems to have been dedicated to St. Anthony. The side chapels are in need of renovation and are not currently used.
The second largest chapel, located along the main road connecting Volos and Portaria, is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. Once a much larger church, it fell into disrepair by World War II and was renovated as a smaller chapel. It dates to at least the 19th century, but at least one archaeology professor suspects that it may be much older. Besides the Dormition, the parish celebrates nearly all the feasts of the Panagia here, as well as many other weekday liturgies.
Another chapel of uncertain date, although again likely quite old, is also dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos, which lies about halfway along the main road connecting Portaria and Makrinitsa. The parish celebrates here the feast of St. Symeon the Stylite (Sept. 1), due to a large, old icon of the saint found there.
The Chapel of St. George was built in 1765 and contains an impressive icon with scenes from his life and martyrdom that probably dates to the founding of the chapel. The parish celebrates the feasts of Sts. George (April 23, or the Monday after Pascha) and Dimitrios (Oct. 26) at this chapel.
Located in Portaria’s cemetery, the Chapel of Sts. Paraskevi and Panteleimon was built in 1808, but was burned down by thieves in 2009. It was rebuilt in 2010, with some parts of the original iconography preserved. It is jointly administered by Portaria’s two parishes. The Parish of St. Nicholas celebrates the feast of St. Paraskevi (July 26), while the Parish of the Holy Unmercenaries celebrates St. Panteleimon (July 27).
Finally, the Chapel of the Holy Archangels is located at the well-known Xenia Palace hotel. It was once the central church of an independent parish in Portaria, but the church was badly damaged by a stray German bomb in World War II. In recent years, it was reconstructed according to the original design, on a slightly smaller scale. The parish celebrates the feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels (Nov. 8), and St. Modestos (Dec. 18), due to a large icon of the saint found at the chapel.
In 2013, with the help of many donors, the parish completed a small parish hall (spiritual center), located adjacent to the Chapel of St. George, where it conducts a weekly study group and Sunday school. It is also open every Sunday after Divine Liturgy for coffee, refreshments, and fellowship. We encourage visitors to please join us.