Athens, June 2018

Athens, June 2018

Assumption - August 15th


On the 15th of August the Greeks celebrate the Virgin Mary

Assumption Festival
Tinos is the very special Aegean island where thousands and thousands of devout pilgrims make their way every summer to pay homage in a large, celebrated gathering called, The Assumption of the Virgin. On the 15th of August, a virtual army of believers descend upon this small, rocky Cycladic isle to receive blessings, make solemn promises or give personal offerings to the Icon of Virgin Mary. Tinos is a spiritual center of modern Greece, where pilgrims gather each August to worship the Virgin Mary. In the early 1800's a vision of the Virgin Mary appeared to one of the local nuns and told her to dig in a particular location for a lost icon of herself. The icon of Virgin Evangelistria was discovered and is housed to this day in the Church of the Virgin. Every year thousands of pilgrims journey to kiss the icon, to ask for healing or in gratitude for miracles received. It is a moving spectacle when local worshippers carry the icon though the streets on Assumption Day-August 15th.  
From the harbor of Tinos, a wide cobbled street leads up to a mound on which the magnificent chruch called, the Church of the Panagia, or Church of the Megalochari. Here, perched on the top, the stately chuch sit imposingly, towering above the whole town and harbour. Built out of marble from quarries at Tinos and Paros, this is the very spot where the miraculous icon of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) was discovered hundreds of years ago.

The miracle-working of the Holy Icon of the Annunciation of Tinos has been known all over the world. Thousands of Christians who come from every part of the world to feel its miraculous influence and help them in the difficult moments of their lives. The impressive church of Megalohari itself, was built after an event in 1822, when a Sister by the name of Pelagia, who was a nun at Moni Kechrovouniou had a vision of Virgin Mary that revealed to her where an icon depicting Mary and an Archangel was to be found. Early the next year, the icon was finally discovered close to the ruins of a byzantine church which had been apparently buried in an underground vault for nearly 850 years. The actual crypt where the icon was found, is now called the Chapel of Evresis (Chapel of discovery). After this, Sister Pelagia herself was canonized and is now called, Agia Pelagia. 


Since the discovery of the icon, the sacred Church of the Megalochari has been internationally recognized as a place of pilgrimage, and also known as a philanthropic organization. During the actual ceremonies, the spiritual emotion and the mystical atmosphere is apparent among the masses of believers when the Great Feast of the Virgin takes place. For believers, it is a moving experience to take part in the gathering of the faithful. Even those who are not Christian and know very little about the workings of the actual Holy Icon find themselves touched by the events. From this experience, many foreigners who visit the island leave with fond memories of the Church of the Holy Virgin, which like a divine crown, adorns and watches over the town. 
VIRGIN MARY'S SNAKES

On the island Kefalonia (on the Ionian Sea), every year around the midle of August, one can see snakes crawling to a particular church. At the ruins of the old church steeple, in the villages of Markopoulo and Arginia, the miraculous snakes of Virgin Mary start appearing on August 6th. They remain at the church area until the night of August 15th when they disappear. The snakes are completely harmless for visitors. A cross on the head is their characteristic feature. 
The snakes crawl on the icon of the Virgin Mary, the church filled with people and the priest holding the service but the snakes have no fear, they are there around people's feet and looking to crawl on to the icon, as soon as the festivity is over they dissapear and regain their normal behaviour. 
A rather peculiar detail is that they never appear on any other period than between August 6-15th. According to legend, in the 16th century, during a raid from the Pirate Barbarossa, the nuns at the Convent prayed to the Virgin Mary to save them. They were transformed into snakes. Interestingly enough, there were only two times in history that the snakes did not appear: during the German occupation and in 1953, the year of the disastrous earthquake.

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