Pigi is a remote village set at a 20-kilometer distance from Mytilene. Built on a steep rock in the year 1780, it was named after the fountain (‘Pigi in Greek) of holy water in the chapel of Panagia I Galatousa (the Lactating Virgin).
Pigi’s main attractions are the three caves where Saints Thymianos, John and Philippos lived as hermits. The most significant of these is the cave of Saint Thymianos. The homonymous chapel was erected inside the cave and becomes inundated with pilgrims in January each year, when believers ascend to Pigi and pay their respects to the Saint.
The churches of Agia Paraskevi and Zoodochos Pigi (Life-giving Spring) are set on the main village square. Two-and-a-half kilometers from the village, in the location of Tavros, lies the chapel of Saint Charalambos: a site of religious worship which lies at the center of the three-day celebrations of the Saint.
Pigi lies in close proximity to the small village of Komi and the two settlements are famed for their joint annual hosting of a major Lesvian religious festival. The ancient custom of animal sacrifice has been preserved in numerous areas of Lesvos, in the slaughter of a sacrificial bull on the feast of Saint Charalambos. The event is celebrated in Pigi and Komi over a three-day period, from July 11th to July 13th each year. Should you find yourself in eastern Lesvos between these dates, do come to Pigi and Komi and have an experience of one of the longest-standing celebratory practices on Lesvos.
In the evening of July 11th, the sacrificial animal is adorned with flowers and paraded around Pigi until the procession has arrived at the main village square. The bull’s arrival marks the commencement of celebrations and traditional music and dance permeate the village. The following day (July 12th) a procession of ornamented horses and an equine pageant unravel in Pigi, following which pilgrims, riders and horses march to the hill of Tavros and the Saint Charalambos priest gives them his blessing.
The bull becomes sacrificed at midnight of the same day, his flesh cut into pieces and boiled all through the night. The resultant meal is the traditional ‘kiskets’ of Lesvos: a mixture of wheat, lamb’s meat and beef cooked slowly and then stirred until the meat has become separated into fibers. The priest blesses the kiskets in the morning of July 13th, and each pilgrim is handed their share. July 13th is the final day of the celebrations, when horse racing takes place in the village and the participants to the festival gather in the village square and celebrate until dawn.
Pigi holds significant interest for botanists. Of the different varieties of olive tree to be discovered on Lesvos, all are present in Pigi. The village is surrounded by trees of the Kolovi, the Adramitiani and the Ladolia cultivars of Olea europaea, all three of which render small fruit and produce a fragrant, high-quality olive oil. Lovers of orchids will be able to admire the rare Ophrys minutula, the rare small-leaved orchid which grows in the area.
A cobblestone footpath joins Pigi to the Thermi location of Paliochori. The two-kilometer walk involves coursing through dense vegetation and crossing a running stream and is ideal for anyone with a fondness for the nature of eastern Lesvos. Alternatively, set off from Komi and proceed to the hill of Tavros with its altitude of 320 meters. The ascent means progressing through woodland, yet the landscape occasionally becomes barren, allowing for some outstanding far-reaching views.