The small monastery complex of Ayia Sion or Siones (St Sion) is located on the southwest side of Nisyros, east of the recently opened carriage road that leads from Mandraki to Argos. It is built in such a way that it is invisible from the road, for protection from pirate raids that often affected the area in the past. It perches on the slope of a low hill, on the western side of a fertile valley, below the western steep slopes of the imposing Mount Diavatis, the highest mountain in Nisyros (698 m.).
The name of the Monastery, “The Birth of the Mother of God in New Sion”, appears in a document of 1865 of the Community of Nisyros, which bears its seal. The monastery is a Metochion (glebe) of Panayia Spiliani, which controls the fertile agricultural land that surrounds it. Thanks to the estate, the then operating Siones must have been significantly prosperous.
The stone-built architectural complex is enclosed, protected by a high wall. An arched courtyard leads to the buildings of the monastery which are arranged in three levels. They are consisted of cells for hosting monks, warehouses, farm buildings, and a large hall that was probably Abbot’s office. Its size reveals that Siones was probably the largest monastery in Nisyros. However, the monks abandoned the monastery too soon, as it happened in the case of the monastery of Arma in the north-east.
The katholikon (main church) is dedicated to the Birth of the Mother of God and is celebrated on the 8th of September. It is a small single-nave arched-roofed basilica (dimensions 6.00 x 3.00 m.). Two transverse reinforcing arches attached on pilasters divide the interior into three sections. The wooden iconostasis of the temple has been removed for maintenance and only traces of its pillar are preserved on the floor today.
The interior of the church is painted with hagiographies in a medium condition of preservation. The Holy Altar is dominated by the figure of the Mother of God Platytera (Our Lady of the Sign). Above, there is the representation of Christ as a High Priest, surrounded by angels, the four Hierarchs, and saints. In the main temple, on both sides of the decorative band that runs along the roof, four horizontal zones are developed on each side. They include narrative cycles and individual figures, with an emphasis on narrative scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin due to the dedication of the church to the Mother of God.
According to a document of 1733, the frescoes of the church are attributed to the monk Jonas. His work dates back to the 18th century. It is a creation of faith and piety and it moves the ordinary average person to whom it is addressed with its “folk” style. The concept of the iconographical programme and their stylistic features show clear similarities between the katholikon of the monastery of Arma and the church of Panayia Diavatini, which seem to have been painted by the same hagiographer.
Rescue works, aimed to reduce the damage of the frescoes, have been carried out by the Archaeological Service aiming to a complete restoration in the future, while recently the Ecclesiastical Committee carried out restoration works in the spaces of the Monastery, approved by the Ministry of Culture.
Area of Mandraki, Nisyros, postal code 85303
Means of access:
By car, afterwards on foot
Visit after consulting