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Panagia Evangelistria Church and Museums, Tinos August 10, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Special Features.

The Church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Good Tidings) is the most revered religious shrine in Greece, drawing thousands of pilgrims each year. It is located on the island of Tinos in the Cyclades.

History of the Panagia Evangelistria Church
According to tradition, one night in 1822, a nun of Tinos named Pelagia dreamed that a miraculous icon was buried nearby. Pelagia led her neighbors to the place she had seen in her dream, and when they began to dig, they discovered the remains of a Byzantine church with the icon.

The Panagia Evangelistria icon, depicting Mary kneeling in prayer, is believed to be the work of Saint Luke and to have miraculous healing powers.

The massive Panayia Evanyelistria church, made of marble from the islands of Paros and Tinos, with a distinctive bell tower, was built in 1824 to house the miraculous icon.

To seek the icon’s aid, a sick person sends a young female relative or a mother brings her sick infant. As the pilgrim descends from the boat, she falls to her knees, with traffic indifferently whizzing about her, and crawls painfully up the padded lane on the main street the 1 km (½ mile) to the church.

In the church’s courtyards, the pilgrim and her family camp for several days, praying to the magical icon for a cure. This process is very similar to the ancient one observed in Tinos’s temple of Poseidon.

Description of the Panagia Evangelistria Church
Outside, the church’s marble courtyards (with green-veined Tiniot stone) are paved with lovely pebble mosaics and surrounded by offices, chapels, a health station, and seven museums. A broad flight of marble stairs leads to the church.

Inside the upper church, hundreds of gold and silver hanging lamps and beeswax candles illuminate the holy icon of the Virgin and gifts dedicated by the faithful.

You must often wait in line to see the small icon, which is encrusted with jewels from grateful worshippers.

The votive gifts, in silver, gold and precious jewels, take such shapes as a hand or foot, a crib, a house, or a car. Each gleaming gift tells a tale of thanks for a prayer answered. To the right of the entrance is a gold lemon tree, donated by a blind man who regained his sight.

Even those who do not make a lavish gift customarily light one of the many candles burning inside the church. The pilgrims’ devotion is manifest in these gifts and candles, and in the piety of those who crawl on their knees to the church from the dock.

The lower church, called the Evresis, contains the crypt where the icon was found and celebrates the discovery. The crypt is surrounded by smaller chapels, one of which has a baptismal font filled with silver and gold votives. The crypt is often crowded with Greek parents and children in white, waiting to be baptized with water from the font.

The chapel to the left commemorates the torpedoing by the Italians, on Dormition Day, 1940, of the Greek ship Helle; in the early stages of the war, the Greeks amazingly overpowered the Italians.

Description of the Museums
Within the high walls that surround the church are various museums and galleries, most of which are interesting primarily as curiosities.

The gallery of 19th-century religious art is to the left as you pass through the main gateway; another gallery houses Byzantine icons, and to the left of the foundation offices is a fascinating display of gifts offered to the cathedral.

The sculpture museum, to the right and up a flight of stairs, is one of the best galleries; it contains gifts from sculptors, many quite renowned, who studied with the help of the cathedral charitable foundation.

Just below the cathedral precinct on Leoforos Megaloharis is a small Archaeological Museum, open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 3pm; admission is 2€. The collection includes finds from the ancient sanctuary of Thesmophorion near Exomvourgo, plus a sundial from the 2nd century AD found at the Sanctuary of Poseidon and Amphitrite at Kionia.

If you go >
Location: End of Megalohari, Tinos, Cyclades
Phone: 22830 22256
Hours: Cathedral: daily 8am-8pm (off-season daily noon-6pm)
Museums: Sat-Sun (some weekdays during July and Aug) 8am-8pm (off-season noon-6pm)
Cost: Free
Etiquette: In the church, men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves, and women must wear dresses or skirts and tops with sleeves. Remember that it’s not appropriate to explore the church during a service.

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