According to all archaelogists’ estimation, ( those who have dealt with this issue), the Monastery of Virgin Mary “Spiliani” (Virgin Mary in the Caves) in Nisyros, was built in the 14th century and it is likely that an old temple may pre-existed in the same place.
The scientists’ view is listed below in detail. Based on this scientific approach, the Diocese of Rhodes, to which Nisyros then belonged to, forwarded the Nisyrians’ request, to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to visit Nisyros and enlighten the ceremonial celebration for the 600 years since the foundation of the Monastery with His presence.
Indeed, the Ecumenical Patriarch visited Nisyros and participated in various events from the 4th till the 6th of August, 2001. In order to commemorate this first visit of the Patriarch on the island, the Diocese of Rhodes has walled a special marble slab at the entrance of the premises of the Monastery complex. (photo shown beside).
The Scientific opinions:
1. “It is almost certain that the greatest pilgrimage of Nisyros, the cavernous small Church of Virgin Spiliani located inside the castle of Mandraki existed during the Age of Knights. A supporting element of this case is the recent revelation of the half-body form of St. Nicholas, on the posterior surface of the devotional portable icon of Virgin Mary Spiliani, which dates from the late 18th or early 19th century. The recently found form of St. Nicholas is the work of an exceptional painter and has been composed in the late 14th or early 15th century. In the entrance of the Church there are walled sections of marble reredosdated to the end of the 11th century that probably date the worship in this place in the Middle Byzantine period”. (Elias Kolias Director of the Inspectorate of Antiquities (hon.), “Knights domination-Turkish domination” newspaper KATHIMERINI mag. “efta imeres” 22-7-2001)
2. In the entrance of the Catholic in the monastery of Panagia Spiliani are walled parts Middle Byzantine marble temple adorned with geometric and floral motives, such as rosettes, sirikous wheels, continuous toxyllia surrounding thornlike palmettes and exerga buttons inserted.These topics are quite common in the temples of the 10th and 11th century (at the end of which the one of Nisyros should be dated), both in mainland Greece and Asia Minor and the Islands. The adaptation of these marble blocks in their current position has been made with knowledge and diligence, which in our opinion does not favor the hypothesis of their transfer from far away. This fact, in combination with its approximate dimensions (about six meters), leads us to the conclusion that the temple probably comes from an earlier building stage of the catholic (small church in the monastery complex), of Virgin Mary Spiliani..." (Aggeliki Katsioti, Hel. Papavasiliou archaiologists “Palaiochristian and Byzantine Nisyros” KATHIMERINI, as above).
3. “The monastery of Virgin Mary Spiliani, ... it is unspecified if it is earlier than the late 14th or early 15th century, then, according to the tradition, the Palladium of the monastery was found, the icon of Virgin Mary, for the sake of which the monastery was built in the knightly Castle. There is no reason to doubt about the subject of this tradition, which is probably the continuation of some historical memory, even though – indeed – the special two-way written picture of right handed Virgin Mary/St. Nicholas dating back to around 1400. It remains obscure however, if the existing Catholic was built in an older Church place, from which probably came the parts of the temple or whether they came from another Church in the wider region of Mandraki... We are skeptical about the assumption that these parts were transferred from another Church... So we speculate the building phase of the church took place before the end of the 14th century, an era, at which, according to tradition, the monastery was founded in the knightly Castle ". (Aggeliki Katsioti, Eleni Papavasiliou Archaeologists, "middle-Byzantine sculpture in Leros and Nisyros." Edition of the Christian Archaeological Society Vol Xxiii 2002).
4. . By the same token, the same archaeologist, Aggeliki Katsioti, comes to the same conclusion as the time that the Monastery was built and in her essay "Two-way written Palaiologian picture in Nisyros»,( edition of the Christian Archaeological Society Vol KE' 2004 pages from 63 to 75.) This scientist, "summarizes her findings as follows: the two-way written icon of Spiliani of Nisyros, the Palladium of the monastery, dedicated to Virgin Mary right handed leader and Saint Nicholas, can be dated to the last quarter of the 14th century. The arrival of the icon on the island is relevant, according to tradition, to the Foundation of the monastery of Spiliani, but it's not impossible to be associated with extensive renovation. The icon probably has been donated to the island's inhabitants-vassals from the subsequent powerful tenant of Nisyros Rhodian Lord Dragonino Klavelli, who a few years earlier may be ordered from Konstantinoupolis the two-way written icon of the Temple of Isodion, presentation of Virgin Mary (today the Grand Masters' Palace in Rhodes) with the same, relatively rare theme, for his private chapel in the medieval town of Rhodes, dedicated to Saint Nicholas... ".
5. "After the prevalence of Christianity in the region, the old natural cave transformed into Christian Church of Virgin Mary, as evidenced, by the existence of marble architectural elements, from early Christian times. In the late 11th or early 12th century this church was renovated. Two aisles were formed... Then a marble temple was constructed, with ornate embossed decoration, which was put in the aisle of Virgin Mary. It remained in this position until the year 1725, when it was replaced by the currently maintained and high-grade wooden temple, while the old marble one was placed between the aisle and the narthex of the Catholic. It was in 1400 that the Sacred Monastery of Virgin Mary Spiliani was founded in this position, whose Catholic was the pre-existing Church of Virgin Mary". (Address of Dr John Volanakis, Archaeologist, Director of the Inspectorate of Antiquities in Heraklion, Crete, faced by the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos during his visit in Nisyros in August 2001).
6. "Information published until today, has lead to the conclusion that the Monastery of Virgin Mary Spiliani was built in the 14th century. The rationale and arguments which lead us to this conclusion are known and there is no need to repeat them. New element now comes to confirm our expressed views. M. Gedeon (Grand chartofylax and chronicler) in his article “Old prosperity of Nisyros” in the newspaper "Voice of Dodekanisa", reads: "But previously listed the 27 July 1674. On tour ledgers monk agiotafiton, graphene by almost the middle of Q. Centenary until the early R. elect what I could judge useful from the past of the island of Nisyros, had ... so male Monastery Nisyros pre hundred and fifty years as well as had hermitage…”. So if by Chronology 1674 subtract 250 years mentioned in ledger, then we arrive in 1424. This proves that the Monastery of Panagia Spiliani existed before 1424 and clarified here that our observation in our work "Meteora of Dodecanese" in that document of 1600 we find seal of the monastery, makes no reference to the start time of the life of this building. "(Stavros Kentris, headmaster -Theologian profound scholar of ecclesiastical archives relating to Nisyros, in an article in the newspaper “Nisyriaka Nea”).
7. Recently, non-experts have made a controversial argument that , because in an old document, (as in the above comment of S. Kentris), it is said that there was a stamp with the phrase "S. Monastery of Virgin Mary Spiliani 1600", this leads to the conclusion that the monastery "was built" that year. The unfounded and unscientific character of this assumption is so obvious that no one have to make arguments to reject it. Only three documents need to be cited (from the archive of Virgin Mary Spiliani), with stamps, of Metropolis of Rhodes 1910, another document again of Metropolis of Rhodes 1913 and a third, of Metropolis of Kos 1900. It would be funny to support that the Metropolis of Rhodes was founded in 1910 or 1913 and the Metropolis of Kos in 1900 because it is seen on the stamps of the documents.
8. Finally, from our knowledge and according to the respective research we performed, there is no contrary view to the one put forward above, which comes as a proof of specific scientific study.