Thursday, May 29, 2014

Greece’s Tinos Island: Oh Come all the Faithful. . .

The magenta-colored carpet we were looking for was more a dirty tan.

But it was there, just as we had been told it would be. Stretching a half-mile uphill from the harbor in Tinos town – on the Cycladic Island of the same name – it provides a cushion, of sorts, for those humble pilgrims who crawl to the church at the end of this holy pathway.

Not just any church, mind you, but to the island’s centerpiece, the Holy Church of Panagia Evaggelistria of Tinos, or Our Lady of Tinos.
Panagia is the Eastern Orthodox title for the Virgin Mary. Evaggelistra, refers to the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announced to Virgin Mary the incarnation of Christ.
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More than a million faithful each year come to this island with a population of about 8,500 to seek blessings, healing, or miracles (all of which have been recorded as having been granted over the decades) from the Megalochari, (Great Grace), the unofficial name of the Holy Icon for which the church is home.

Unlike those faithful, we chose to walk to the church which gave us an opportunity to ’window shop’ at the many stores that line the route selling religious souvenirs. Others sell candles – huge candles as evidenced by their size in the photo below – to be use as offerings. They also sell ‘tamas’ metallic pieces that represent the reason for your visit. We’ve seen similar metallic pieces called ‘milagros’ or ‘miracles’ in Spanish offered at cathedrals in Mexico.

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Why this Church is Special:

It’s believed that in ancient times, a temple to the Greek god, Dionysus, once stood on the site of the present-day church; a church considered to be one of the most important orthodox shrines of pilgrimages in Greece. But somewhere along the ages, the Christians came along and turned it into a church.

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What makes the story more interesting is that the Megalochari which came to Tinos during the Byzantine times, is believed to have been one of three icons painted by Saint Luke during the lifetime of the Virgin Mary. . .many believe it’s miracle-working power came directly from her blessing it.

But the icon vanished when Saracen pirates invaded and burned down the church – back in the 10th Century.

DSCF1593It wasn’t found until some 900 years later after a nun named Pelagia, had three recurring visions about its location and convinced townsfolk of where they needed to dig to find it. 

They dug, found evidence of the temple, but no icon, so they quit digging.

Then a cholera epidemic hit.

Was it cause and effect?

Whatever the case, they resumed the digging and found the Megalochari on Jan. 30, 1823.

Sister Pelagia became Saint Pelagia in 1970.





At the bottom level of the church there are three vaulted arcades where the icon was believed to have been found. It is the site of many baptisms.

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The church is a financially independent charitable foundation, governed by a 10-member committee made up of nine elected directors and the Bishop of Syros-Tinos.  It is operated separate from the other Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries in Greece. It’s support comes from donations and offerings of the faithful – it is the donated works of art that fill the church’s museum and then some.

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Photos are not permitted inside the church or of the hallways that lead to offices and the church museum, or apartments (which are used – free of charge – at three-day intervals by pilgrims). So I was left to photograph the intricate mosaic that makes up the church’s courtyard.

DSCF3856We spent three nights in Tinos as a result of some of that ‘novel research’ I am always promoting. 

You know we are both fans and friends of Jeffrey Siger who spends half of each year on Mykonos writing crime novels set in Greece.  His, “Target Tinos” with a plot-line involving this church had peaked our interest in the island.

And as we pondered our ‘next stop’ while in Mykonos, he was kind enough to give us a wealth of travel tips about Tinos.


We set off for Tinos aboard a ferry from Mykonos. Water is the only way to reach this island, which in retrospect, was the most ‘Greek’ of the islands we visited. By that, I mean we encountered many who spoke as much English as we do Greek. We were fortunate to be there during the off season and in fact, were but a few staying in the multi-storied hotel we'd selected on the water front.

It was also one of the most stunning Greek islands we’ve visited. The countryside was magical ~ We’ll take you on a tour of it soon.


That’s it for today’s Travel Photo Thursday. Head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more armchair travels. And if you want to do some novel research on Greece, check out Jeff’s book:

Hope to see you back here later this week. And, as always, thanks for the time you spent with us today! 
Also linking to:
Travel Photo Monday
Monday Mosaics

40 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks much for your visit today - always appreciated!

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  2. The last time I was on the beautiful island of Tinos, I was about 6 months old...for my baptism at the Holy Church of Panagia Evaggelistria. My mother and I crossed the Atlantic for this sacred of ceremonies in the Greek Orthodox religion. I long to visit it once again, and your amazing commentary on the Holy Church of Panagia Evaggelistria of Tinos, the Megalochari, Agia Pelagia and the pilgrimages has certainly made me focus on this intention more strongly. Thank you for a most well written post.

    Take care, Jackie!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. Poppy, Your comment brought a smile to my face! I had been thinking how wonderful it would have been to have been baptized in that magnificent place. Oh, you would so love that church and I know you would love the town and the island!!! Thanks for such a touching and personal tale! Hugs to you, Jackie

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  3. That was a fabulous find, Jackie. It is a stunningly beautiful church with an amazing back story. So glad you were able to spend some time there.

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    1. The entire island was a fabulous find Marcia. I still can't believe that we almost missed it in favor of other more 'well-known' islands. . .learned a valuable lesson there! Thanks for your visit today - as always, its appreciated.

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  4. I love the style of this "church". Such a beautiful building. Crawling on hands and knees is such an extreme thing to do and for me is difficult to understand. This is the first time I have heard of the carpet.

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    1. I too have a hard time with the crawling, lowering oneself, concept but I guess for those who do, those carpets are mighty important. Thanks for your visit Jan.

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  5. Wow, the church certainly does have an interesting history. Beautiful photos. The church is gorgeous.

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    1. It was an amazing place Tonya - even more so, inside. Thanks for your visits, Tonya - they are appreciated!

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  6. Hello Jackie and Joel,

    That was a fascinating account of the church and its place as a site for pilgrimage. The history of such places is always interesting to us and it must have felt quite moving to be present somewhere that has seen countless thousands of people travelling before you and, no doubt, coming long after you have gone.

    Greece holds a great interest for us and your posts confirm that we should make our own visit before too much longer.

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    1. Oh Jane and Lance, You would adore Greece! I do hope you make it there as I would love to read your accounts of your experiences. The churches - and the faithful - in Greece seem so much more authentic (for lack of a better word) than those in the U.S. I would like to learn more about the Eastern Orthodox belief system, ah, but that can wait for a future trip. . .
      As always, love hearing from you. Have a great weekend. J.

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  7. Love the detail of the mosaic but can't relate to prostrating myself - even on a cushioned pathway.
    The town looks lovely and now I'd like to read that book.

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  8. Leigh, you would enjoy the book - I'd recommend starting at the beginning of his series though and following the character development along the way. This is the fourth in the Kaldis series. And yes, this island, exceeded our expectations in every way. Thanks for the visit (we've ordered those shoes you reviewed yesterday, btw)

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  9. Hi Jackie...What a gorgeous church. Your photos of the mosaics are gorgeous. I think it's interesting how one small island can support itself with a church and a history of miracles! :) Looking forward to seeing more of the island. Oh, and I am going to read that book. I know that you've mentioned Jeffrey's books before.

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    1. The church has amazing wealth derived from incredible donations and offerings, Nancie. It boggles the mind at the far reach of the church as a result into island improvements, culture and some indicated, even helping build roads. Check out Jeff's book - it provides an interesting look into the impact of the church here. Thanks for the visit!

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  10. Some very interesting background information here, Jackie, and a really nice photo series. Can't wait the next episode!

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    1. Thanks for your continued support Andrew - it is always nice to see your name among those who've visited!

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  11. This church is impressive. Thanks for sharing information about its history.

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    1. Thanks much for the visit, Donna. Glad you found the post of interest!

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  12. I didn't know about this church and probably won't crawl on my knees to go to it or anywhere else but I'd love to see the island. Did they think the cholera epidemic was divine intervention that was perhaps a bit of "overkill"? Sick joke - in more ways than one!

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    1. I am with you on the crawling, Kay. Far too long a pathway for these old knees! Thanks for the visit today!

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  13. I have heard of other churches where pilgrims must go on their knees down the stone aisle, but this is the first place that I've heard of where they start off way down the street. Someone was very kind to put in that carpet and the traffic cones, too. The giant candles remind me of the tall incense sticks burned at the Chinese temples in Penang, and the stone mosaics remind me of reflexology paths. This island has such a fascinating history. I'm so glad you shared it with us.

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    1. I guess this isn't as bad as the road they crawl in Spain and travel miles on their knees, but still the distance wasn't one I would have tackled. Yes, those candles are like some in the Chinese temples aren't they? I hadn't put that together until reading your comment - glad you dropped by!

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  14. The carpet's a great idea for the crawling faithful and, I think, is the first time I've heard of some concern for the comfort of the pilgrims' hands and knees. Usually, some amount of pain seems to be associated with the journey... All your photos are great but I especially liked the mosaics which are beautiful!

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    1. I suspect that even with that faded carpet there are some bruised and cut knees by the time they make it to the chapel with the icon. Not for me but interesting all the same.

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  15. Hi Jackie, I found the story of the icon very moving. Truly great story about lost and found and faith. Tinos sounds like a really beautiful island. I love islands that are still more local. I have to keep it in mind for our return trip to Greece. I like your idea of novel research. I might have to check out Jeffrey's book. Nice post!

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    1. There are so many interesting stories like this one in Greece - makes our couple of hundred years of Pacific NW history, seem like some 'modern history'. Think you'd like Jeffrey's book. Thanks for the visit.

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  16. Lovely history. If only the Christians hadn't come along and changed it all...but glad it still inspires pilgimages and faith. I'll be in Greece in October for TBEX, I think. So this inspires me to visit Tinos.

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    1. You would like it on Tinos, Kristin. Just be prepared for the lack of spoken English here - it really does remain a very Greek island.

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  17. Thanks for taking me back to Mykonos, which I visited many years ago. It looks quite different now than I recall, but I don't think I saw the church then. I do recall a sweet little beach reached via a donkey trail. :)

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    1. Mykonos was our starting point for this island of Tinos, Carole - I'll have more on Mykonos in future posts. Stay tuned and thanks for the visit.

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  18. Looks like a gem of a little town, perfect fodder for a novel~

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    1. Yes, the story line is a good intro to this town and that magnificent -- and powerful -- church.

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  19. How fortunate to have found this island on your travels as many times the lesser known ones are the treasures. That's an interesting story of what happens if you quit digging too soon.

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    1. Yes Neva, it is interesting to me that millions visit Tinos each year, but for the American tourist, we usually only hear of Mykonos and Santorini. Way too many other interesting islands out there in Greece. Thanks for the visit.

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  20. What a beautiful town Tinos seems. i spent time on Mykonos with my two daughters and fell in love with Greece. This brings back great memories.

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    1. This place might have been our most magical of stops in Greece this trip. We are thinking a return trip here is called for.

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  21. Most fascinating - shame you couldn't photograph the Megalochari icon, but I Googled it and found a pic: http://bit.ly/1xj3u1i

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  22. great share. Thank you. Your tile mosaic is lovely.

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