The small Orthodox church of Panayiopoula has now stood in the heart of old Corfu Town for over four centuries. From facts filed in the Corfu Archives we can estimate that the church was built before 1650 and that its original name was "The Holy Theotokos Odigitria and the Unmercenary Saints Kosmas and Damanou".
In 1682, a Papa Kakos renovated the church and then in 1688 a monk, Dimitri Rachapidis, improved it. From then on the name Rachapidis was linked with the church. (Privately owned churches were very common then for no taxes were applied.)
In 1740 a recommendation was issued that the five churches participating in the Holy Friday Procession should keep to the programme, under threat of a 500 ducat fine. The Odigitria was scheduled to enter the procession promptly at 17.00 hours. (This procession is continued today, assisted by a group devoted to keeping the Town's customs, plus contributions from neighbours. Organisational help and gifts also aid the annual festival of the Odigitria on 23 August - an event cherished by the Corfiots.)
In 1754 an inspection was made of all churches and the Odigitria was included. Any number of Holy Utensils, silk cloths and service books are recorded.
In 1819 we read that Papa John Balsamakis asked to live in one of the two adjoining cells. Today, these two cells house various people.
In Spiros Papageorgiou's book "History of the Church in Kerkyra" (1920) we learn that the monk Chariton bought the Panayiopoula church and donated it to his monastery, The Holy Theotokos Platytera. This historic monastery lies on the edge of town, and it is here that the first Governor of Greece, John Capodistrias is buried. A small icon of the Panagia, beloved by and donated to the Monastery by Capodistrias can be venerated there.
From this time the Metochi (a monastic dependency) stood unharmed during the ensuing devastating years and was used temporarily by the parish of St. Paraskevi, whose own church had been bombed by the Italians.
In his detailed book about the Holy Platytera Monastery (2002), K. Theemy makes mention of the Chapel Odigitria in the Listing of Monastery Wealth in 1967, and in the Census of Monastery wealth in 2000 (pp 80, 81).
Now this beautiful church is open morning and afternoon and there is a continuous flow of worshippers as well as Greek and foreign visitors, who feel that they have been 'guided' in by the Guide – the Odigitria Herself. The small unassuming church offers unusual quiet for prayer, meditation and revealing discussion. Worshippers return again and again.
The church can be contacted by writing to PO Box 532, Corfu, 49100 Greece or by email at email@example.com.