Also called the Church of Dormition, the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, or “the Monastery,” Hydra’s main cathedral is located in the center of the harbor in the complex underneath the clock tower.
A nun from Kythnos is said to have arrived on Hydra in 1643 and funded and built a church on this site dedicated to Saint Charalambos. She also built a few cloister cells for nuns. After these nuns died, monks took over the premises. The original structure was destroyed in 1774 by an earthquake and rebuilt by Venetian architects. At this point, the edifice was renamed and dedicated to the Assumption of the Mother of God. The premises ceased being a monastery in 1833 and now functions as a church and the seat of the Metropolitan of Hydra, Spetses, and Aegina.
This Byzantine-style cathedral with its two marble bell towers consists of a three-laned, pillared basilica with cupola and a marble temple. Its magnificent interior includes a marble iconostasis, frescoes dating from the 18th century, the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary of Maliki, relics of Agios Konstandinos of Hydra, hundreds of gold and silver icons from the Byzantine period, a golden chandelier, and other elaborate Orthodox decoration.
The courtyard houses statues of some of the heroes of the 1821 War of Independence against the Turks, including Admirals Lazaros Koundouriotis and Andreas Miaoulis and Theodoris Kolokotronis (names you can’t spend long on Hydra without hearing). Visitors can also see the tomb of Lazaros Kountouriotis and the war memorial from the Balkan wars.
Formerly serving as the island’s prison, the cloisters surrounding the cathedral today house various civic offices, including the town hall and mayors office, as well as the Cathedral Museum displaying a variety of historical religious objects, textiles, bejeweled vestments, and other treasures. Entry to the museum costs about €4.
Once the center of religious life on Hydra, today the cathedral remains the focal point for the Greek Orthodox Church on the island. All religious holidays and services are conducted here. Since 2018, marriages, previously banned as the complex has been designated a monastery, have been permitted in the courtyard.
After Greek Easter, or Pascha, the feast of the Assumption of the Mother of God, celebrated on August 15, is the most important event on the religious calendar in Greece. Greeks often return to their family homes, the villages and islands of their youth, for the festivities. Hydriots hold a special reverence for the icon of the Mother of God, which the bishop carries ceremoniously to various churches and chapels to bestow the Virgin’s blessings.
As this is still a place of worship, appropriate clothing is required. Photographs are allowed except inside the church its self.