Sanctuary of the Cabeiri

Mysteries of the Cabeiri

Sactuary of the Cabeiri

Sactuary of the Cabeiri – Source: Tsolakis G..

According to mythology, the “Cabeiri” where the three sons and the three daughters of the Hephaestus and Kabeiro and were worshiped in Lemnos as deities. Their cult was highly ritualistic and included rituals which were known as the “Mysteries of the Cabeiri” and were related to the rebirth of nature and to fertility.

The worship and initiation rituals lasted nine days. During the rituals, they used to put out all the fires on the island and sent a ship to Delos, the island of Apollo the light-giver, to bring new light. Life on the island stopped until the new light was brought back. Everybody waited for the ship to return with the new light, in order to continue their lives, in its normal pace.

Description

The modern inhabitants of the island give it a plural name: Kabeiria. It was discovered by L. Bernarbo Brea at the cape of Chloe in NE Lemnos, opposite the site of ancient Hephaestia. It was excavated by the Italian Archaeological School of Athens in 1937-39. Since 1982 research and excavations are continued.

The sanctuary of the Cabeiri was protected, by land, by a long wall at the top of the hill which hid it from the eyes of the uninitiated. The main buildings of the sanctuary were large halls of initiation (Telestiria) within which the “sacred” was revealed to the initiate, the so called Cabeirian mysteries. Their ruins are preserved in two flat areas, held up on the steep slope towards the sea, by supports.

At the back of the cella (the main interior of the temple) are the foundations of a small temple, destined for the “sacred”. The cella is divided into three compartments by two rows of five marble columns, and with a portico supported towards the sea by a strong stylobate.

A rich repository of offerings, lamps for night ceremonies, kantharoi, skyphoi, “compasses”, pottery for the sacred symposia, belong to the classical and Hellenistic phase. In the sanctuary, fragments of sculptures, terracotta and bronze figurines, glassware and many votive, honorific, liberating inscriptions were found.

The archaic telesterion is located in the southern plateau, with benches of half-baked plinths along the walls where the initiates sat. In the back there was the most holy place, the adyton, where the priest entered and the statues of the gods were situated.
It is perhaps the oldest known telesterion in Greece, even older than the Soloneio Telesterion in Eleusis. It was destroyed by fire, probably by the invading Persians in 512 BC.

The Hellenistic telesterion was built on the northern plateau and is the first thing someone sees when entering the site. It is rectangle, measuring 33 x 46.10 meters, double in size compared to the sanctuary of Samothrace and at the front it had a portico with 12 columns. It was divided into three aisles, by two rows of four Ionic columns.
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