FEAST OF ST. MAMAS

The story of Saint Mamas festival.

In relation to the fair of Saint Mamas, the first known report about the festival comes from Nikolaos Xrysanthidis approximately in 1869/70. As he states: “During  the fest of Saint Martyr (Mamantos), those who came from the neighbouring villages, the foreigners, including those from approximate cities, all came for the sake of trade.”

The fair took place in memory of the Saint – on the day of celebration of his name which is on September 2nd; that is the next day of September 1st, which forms the start of the “Indiktion” byzantine – ecclesiastical year.

“Indiktion” (from the latin word “indictio”, which means “define”) is a fifteen year time cycle and it begins during the 1st of September. It defines the start of the taxation year, when taxes were collected.

The church of Saint Mamas, according to tradition, was built by the monks of the glebe.

Tradition states that the monks who resided at the glebe were seeing during the nights a light in the sea, much like an oil lamp, which they searched only to discover through the depths of the bottomless sea the icon of Saint Mamas.

As they returned to their glebe, the oxen that were dragging the cart with the icon stood still as they were moving uphill, just outside the glebe.

Despite all the effort the oxen remained immobilised. The monks took that as a sign from the Saint and build at the exact point a small church where they placed the icon.

The church, as years passed by, went under demolitions and restorations. One of those demolitions and restorations took place during the 19th century.

This church was preserved till the 1950’s, where it went under renovation again, and since the decade of 1990 it begun its reconstruction, above and next to the older one, as a new and bigger one, according to the initiative of archimandrite Dorotheos.

The old church was demolished and in its place a pilgrim’s shack was built.

The initial space where the fair took place was located under and just to the right of the church, towards the lake.

At that exact point, there was a stone well, which was covered and was named “Bezesteni”, while handing out its name generously to the area around it.

The word “Bezesteni” is Turkish and it means  “market”, either cloistered or outdoors; an area where trading takes place, bazaar (bezesten, with its persian root bez=fabric)

This well was sealed when during the 1950’s, the municipality of Saint Mamas established a fountain with artesian water.

The area “Bezesteni”, despite the fact that it was neighbouring to the glebe, officially belonged to the fiefdom of “Beis”, who collected rent from the space that was allocated to the fair. 

Initially, at the fair, only the trading of animals took place, therefore establishing it as an “animal fair”; as time went by it evolved to a commercial fair.

The old space in “Bezesteni” was used till the end of 1960’s for trading animals.

The space was optimal for trading animals because it had water and it was open and readily accessible to animals and humans alike.

The time of conduct in the beginning of September was optimal, just after the end of sowing and the rest of the summer agricultural occupations, while at the same time, the preparation for the new agricultural year, for sowing and for the winter, marked the best time to buy and sell animals.

The neighbouring state with the glebe in Saint Mamas, the involvement of the monks with the legend for the search of the icon of the Saint and mainly the oxen, which as divine state the will of the Saint, prove, through the legend, that this place is directly linked with the sale and purchase of animals through the support of a Saint that is closely related to the protection of animals.

The fest of Saint Mamas formed a custom that became an institution; it started as a local market in the beginning of the Fall during the Byzantine era only to be converted through the centuries to the well known fair of the 19th and 20th century. 

The fair of Saint Mamas would start at the eve of the celebration of the Saint, with the vesper, where the conveyance of the icon of the Saint would last 3 days.

In our days it unofficially starts 2 to 3 days earlier and it ends about 1 day later, which is approximately at the 5th of the month.