The holy gem of paros is the Cathedral of Our Lady Ekatotapyliani, one of the most significant early Christian monuments throughout Greece. Located in the north east region of the city of Parikia, the church's history begins steeped in Byzantine legend with the first construction somewhere in the 4th century AD. Saint Helen (Aghia Eleni), mother of th emperor Constantine was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of the cross of Christ. Her ship stopped in Paros where she found a tiny church, one of the fisrt dedicated to th new faith. She prayed there and made a pledge that if she were to find the Honoured Cross she would build a Cathedral in the place of a tiny church. Her prayer was answered and she found the Cross, so as she had pledged, construction of the church began. Another version claims that Emperor Constantine built the Cathedral on his mother's orders as she herself was unable to see her pledge to fruition.
The original structure was a cross shaped, wood roofed Basilica most probably destroyed by fire.
During Justinian's reign the church was re-built as the vaulted dome we see today. Legend has it that Justinian's Ekatotapyliani was built by an apprentice of the master-craftsman who built Saint Sophia's Cathedral in Constantinople (Instabul). During the Frankish and Turkish occupations the Cathedral was sacked and looted repeatedly but the greatest damage was caused by the earthquake of 1773. Its reconstruction thereafter distorted the original, impressive form.
In 1959 restoration efforts began and the Cathedral was returned to the cruciform, vaulted dome that Justinian had erected.
The sculpture that decorates the Cathedral was taken from the ancient Temple of Demeter that was adorned at the harbour of Parikia. Tn the southern corner of the great hall there is a baptismal font from the 4th century- the oldest and well maintened example throughout the eastern Orthodox world. With the baptismal font is the oldest fresco yet to be discovered on the island: an 11th or 12th century depiction of St. George. Ekatontapyliani also houses the Byzantine Museum of Parikia with rare examples of iconography, wood carving and other ecclesiastic art pieces from the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire. The greatest religious festival on the island is that of Our Lady on the 15th of August – an occasion where religious celebration of the faith is combined with lively readitional folk bazaars and festivities.