THE PANHELLENIC HOLY SHRINE OF OUR LADY
OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF TINOS
HISTORY - MIRACLES - ACTIVITY
The miracle-working of the Holy Icon of the Annunciation of the Island of Tinos has been known since long age all over the world and thousands of Christians souls in every part of our planet feel its graceful influence in the difficult moments of their lives. The Sacred Church of the Megalochari of Tinos has since long been internationally recognized as a place of pilgrimage and as a philanthropic organization.
The sacred emotion and the mystical atmosphere present among the mass of believers at the Great Feasts of the Church, shake even those who know but few things about the Holy Icon.
No foreigner among those who visit the island remains unmoved in front of the Church of the Holy Virgin, which like a divine crown adorns, covers and guards the town of Tinos and most of the days of his stay there his interests is attracted by the Church.
The present edition is addressed to all our foreign fellow-men, who, irrespective of their language, nationality or religion, would like to get to know the Holy Foundation of the Annunciation of Tinos. It will try to present as shortly as possible a vivid picture about the Sacred Church, the history of the miracle-working Icon, the philanthropic, social and national activity of the Foundation. It will also deal with the narration of certain miracles of the innumerable ones which continuously happen, by which the Divine Grace sanctifies and savesthe believers.
C H A P T E R I.
HOW THE WONDER-WORKING ICON OF OUR LADY WAS FOUND
The present site of the Marble Palace of the Virgin, with the numerous chapels, cell and the offices, has been since ancient times a place of religious gatherings and manifestations.
Excavations have proved that in pre-Christian times existed a temple of Dionysos of panhellenic projection. Next to the temple, on the Western side, there was an ancient theatre, where musical, gymnastic and dramatic games were held.
When the religion of the Nazarene established itself on the Cyclades, this ancient temple was transformed into a Christian church dedicated to the Holy Mother of Christ and to St. John the Precursor. In this the wonder-working Icon of the Megalochari was kept and venerated.
This Sacred Church was destroyed in the middle of the 10th century during a great historic invasion of the Saracene pirates, who burned down and dug up this ancient building.
Since then the Holy Icon lay buried in the earth, until in the year 1823 the spade of a pious worker brought it to the surface and it became since then an invaluable relic and holy treasure of Christendom.
For the finding of worker-working Holy Icon many miraculous happenings occurred, which started from the Monastery of Kechrovounion lying on the slope of a mountain of the same name, 20 minutes by car from town. The Monastery was built about the 10th century and has always been example of the virtue and piety.
THE VISION OF THE NUN
In this monastery during the year 1822, a pious nun named Pellagra saw repeatedly in her visions the Holy Virgin, who ordered her to go to the town and to inform the elders to start the excavations in order to find Her Icon, buried since many years ago in the uncultivated field, which the Holy Virgin described exactly, and to built Her Church on that place.
At first the nun hesitated, but soon she came to understand that the Divine Grace has chosen her to bring to the inhabitants of Tinos the happy announcement. She thus went to town and told the Bishop of the island about her Divine Visions. The Bishop, a wise prudent and pious man, knew about the virtue and holiness of Pelaghia; after having listened attentively the believed in the words of the nun. He also brought to his mind the narrations of an old man of his town, who just a few years ago saw in his vision the Virgin Mary, Who expressed also to him Her desire that Her Holy Icon be bound. And he thought that the Christian history, which is full of miracles, teaches that many times God has revealed his Divine Will by visions.
Deeply moved, the Bishop gave his blessing to the pious nun and rallied the same day by ringing the church bells the people of Tinos, to whom he spoke with words full of faith about the vision of Pelaghia and explained to them the desire of Our Lady. The people of Tinos, well known for their faith and adherence to the Christian principles, believed in the vision of the nun and the words of the Bishop and full of enthusiasm and sacred emotion started immediately in September 1822 the excavations.
THE FIRST FINDINGS
The first excavations brought to light the ruins of the foundations of the Church already mentioned, a deep but dry well, marble plates with various inscriptions, articles of religious worship and other things. However, the Holy Icon, about which the vision of Pelaghia spoke, could not be found. Several days of fruitless searches passed. Little by little the enthusiasm started to diminish - an example of human weakness- and finally the excavations stopped.
Simultaneously, however, with the discontinuation of the excavations, a formidable illness made its appearance on the island with continuously increasing fatal outcomes.
Full of scare, the people of Tinos asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary, repenting for the disobedience they have shown to her Divine Orders.
With a warm and moving proclamation, the Bishop invited all the inhabitants to resume the excavations, which then started with greater zeal and enthusiasm.
This time the excavations were made in a systematic way. A special commission of inspection was formed. The inhabitants of the villages took also turns in the work in order to hasten up the searches.
After about one month's work it was decided to start, parallel to the searches of the Holy Icon, the building of the Sacred Church. Thus, on January 1st 1823 the corner stone of the Church of the ''Zoodohos Pighi'' (Life-giving Well) or of the ''Evresis'' (Finding), as it has been called after the finding of the Icon, was laid. This church is situated exactly below the brilliant Church of the Annunciation.
THE FINDING OF THE HOLY ICON
It was January 0th 1823. Inspite of the great feast of the Three Hierachs, the work was continued by the inhabitants of the village Phalatas, whose turn it was to work on that day.
They restricted the work mainly to the excavation of the floor of the Church under construction, the levelling and transportation of the earth.
By 2 p.m. one of the workers engaged in the transfer of earth, felt at a distance of about 2 metres from the well that his hatchet struck some wood. Frantic with joy and emotion, he saw that it was a part of the icon showing the angel holding the lilly. Immediately he called al his colleagues and together they soon found the remaining part of the Icon showing the Virgin Mary, kneeling and accepting the Divine Message of the Encarnation of the Savior.
After cleaning in haste the Holy Icon, they joined two, parts and kissed it with religious fear.
The news of the finding of the Holy Icon spread with a lighting speed to the town of Tinos and the near-by villages. Masses of people with tears of emotion in their eyes started to assemble from all directions in order to adore they Holy Icon. Among the first ones to arrive was the Bishop with the clergy and the notables. Piously and full of emotion, they adored the Holy Icon and placed it on an old doublelegged stand outside the Church under construction, leaving it there for the people to adore it.
THE HOLY ICON
The Holy Icon of the Annunciation of Tinos, the Megalokhari, as it is called by the people, existed on the poor island of Tinos since the first Byzantine years and decorated the ancient Church of St. John the Precursor, which was built after the destruction of the idols and the death of worship of the Olympian gods on the ruins of the pagan temple of Dionysos.
When this Holy Church was destroyed and burned down by the Saracenes in the 10th century A.D., the Icon was buried among the debris of the Church and was thus saved from that terrible catastrophe, which is mentioned by history with special emphasis.
Thus the Icon remained hidden in the ground till its discovery by the pious worker from Phalatas at noon January 30th 1823, after about 850 years. The fact that it remained in the humidity and the earth for so many years without practically any damage, can only be attributed to the wonder-working power and presence of the Holy Virgin.
It portrays the Megalokhari in a room, kneeling with Her head bent in prayer, in front of a small low stand, wearing a golden-yellow-green dress. On the stand is an open book, on which are written the words pronounced by the Virgin herself after the Annunciation by the Angel.
In the background of the small room and on both upper sides one can distinguish the separations of inner windows, while in the centre of the upper part of the Icon, we see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from heaven.
Above Her and to the right we see a rod protruding from the wall, on which is hung a light-coloured curtain. The fine and impervious material of the curtain is folded at the lower part towards the wall.
Opposite to the Virgin and turned towards Her stands the illuminated figure of the Archangel Gabriel, also wearing a golden-yellow-green robe and holding in his left hand the symbolical lilly of purity.
On the back the Icon bears traces of the fire, which as it seems finished up the catastrophic work of the pirates during their terrible attack, from which the Icon was miraculously saved.
The art of the Holy Icon does not belong to the Byzantine age, but is much older, belonging to the early Christian age. Those who studied the origin of the Icon come to the unanimous conclusion that the Megalokhari of Tinos is the work of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke. They even consider it to be one of the first three Icons painted by St. Luke during the life-time of the Holy Virgin of Nazareth. It is also asserted threat the Icon has received its wonder-working power from the Holy Virgin herself, Who being satisfied by the true presentation of the Divine Moment of the Annunciation by St. Luke, blessed the Icon with the following words: ''THE GRACE OF HIM WHO WAS BORNE BY ME BE THROUGH ME WITH IT''. This is the reasonable explanation given by the weak human mind to the infinite greatness of the finding of the Holy Icon by the divine order and indication of the Holy Virgin, as well as to Its wonder-working power, which is an inexhaustible source of consolidation, healing, salvation, peace and love for the Christians.
Like most of the relics of Christendom of the Holy Icon of the Megalokhari of Tinos is covered with plenty of gold and precious stones, which the devoted Christians deposit with piety in front of the Throne of Her Grace, wishing to express in this way their faith and gratefulness to the Mother of the whole world, offering Her the most precious articles that they have acquired by hard work and privation.
When looking at the Icon the pilgrim is filled unwillingly with emotion and awe. He kneels instinctively and prays and asks the Virgin to mediate so that Her Son Christ would give him from heaven strength and consolidation.
By observing closely the Icon one can see the face of the Virgin painted in the right direction and the face of the Archangel Gabriel in the left direction. The sides and the back of the Icon are in a golden frame, while the front surface is covered by the relief gold plate to which are attached jewels, rings, medallions, brooches, ear-rings, precious stones, diamonds, rubles emeralds and real pearls of great value.
A copy of the Icon can be seen in the Vestry next to the Church which we are going to describe below.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH
OF THE ANNUNCIATION (EVANGELISTRIA)
Immediately after the finding of the Holy Icon, it was decided to build a big Church above the chapel of the Life-giving Well (Zoodochos Pighi). For this purpose the Lower Church was extended to the right and to the left by proper porticos in order to enlarge it and above it was started the construction of the brilliant Church which we see to-day, after the plans of Eustratios Kallonaris, an architect and artist from Smyrna.
The whole work of construction the aghiography and the finishing of the Church, with the surrounding grounds and extensions was terminated by 1830, i.e. within eight years.
The work that was accomplished by our renowned forefathers within a relevantly short period of time is really surprising. Moreover, if we take into consideration the bad conditions prevailing at that time, the construction of this wonderful marble complex, which is preserved nearly unchanged up to-day, must cannot be attributed to nothing else but a miracle.
Only two years before the Holy Icon was found, the great and nation saving Greek War of Liberation (1821) broke out.
The whole Greek Nation was fighting for its national liberation in and uneven inexorable fight against the Ottoman Empire. Destruction, blood and fire were commonplace.
The small, barren and poor island of Tinos, which also constituted a port of the fighting Country, answered the national call and its brave people found themselves together with all the other Greeks from the very first days in the first line of the fight.
Besides, thousands of refugees from Chios and other islands that had received the wrath and the revenge of the Turks, had flooded the islands in a search of protection and salvation from the sword of the conqueror.
The poor island tried desperately to feed a multiple number of inhabitants. And inspite of that the Church of Megalokhari rose quickly to become a brilliant throne of the glory of the Mother of the Most Gracious King Christ.
The best technicians worked to produce the most brilliant marbles. The best known artists produced the wonderful inner ornamentation. The most famous artisans of that time built the marble palace of the Virgin. Tens of workers and unskilled technicians helped by carrying the raw materials and by executing the orders of the artisans.
Nobody tried to take advantage of or to receive high pay for his skills. Everybody worked for the sake of the Virgin, without receiving his normal wage.
Marbles and columns from the ancient temples of Delos and Poseidon at ''Kionia'', Tinos, were used for the construction of the Church, as well as marble from the quarries of Panormos, Tinos.
Every vessel that passed by the island loaded with lime, timber or another building material, being informed about the needs of the Church, donated part of its cargo for its construction.
When at a certain moment the funds of the Church were nearly exhausted, the Virgin, by one of the innumerable miracles that happen in her Holy Church, replenished the treasury again with money and the work continued without the slightest interruption.
The Church and the holy complex were thus built, and it has been preserved up to-day with only slight changes or renovations, which however have not changed at all its initial form. Anybody entering the Church is filled with religious awe and sacred emotion.
The gold and silver, lavishly offered to Her Grace by pious Christians from all over the world, give it a specific appearance. The enormous chandeliers and the hundreds of icon-lamps hanging in unending rows, offer to the Megalokhari the humble light of the sanctified oil and to the pilgrim and visitor a spectacle of surrounded by a mystic atmosphere.
Below each icon-lamp hangs an offering - a vessel, a silver child, a golden woman, an instrument, an animal, a house, a heart and many, many other things.
Each one of them is a living story of a cause of the offering, as well as of the divine intervention, to the desperate captain, whose vessel and crew were saved by the Megalokhari, to the sick child that was healed with the help of Her Grace, to the orphan and to the weak woman, who with the help of the Great Mother of the World found the courage and the strength to face the difficulties of life, to the poor bread-earner whose faith in the Virgin and the Protectress of the persecuted lead him to progress and promotion, to the unprotected girl, who with the help of the Virgin got what she desired in life- a house and a household.
To the left, at the marble praying desk, the Holy Icon brilliant framed with golden offerings and flowers, sheds its sweet light. At any time of the year or of the day, the visitor of the Church will see somebody in front of Her Gase who invokes the help and succour of the Virgin.
In the background, the icons of the bauster, also clad in gold and silver, compose and underline together with all the vestry the sacredness of the place and the greatness of the Church.
Good-voiced chanters and revered priests in golden dresses chant continuously thanksgiving hymns to the Lady of the Angels and pray for the salvation of the world.
By a tradition taken over from the seat of the Patriarchat at Constantinople, the Divine Liturgy and vespers are held every day of the year, from the inauguration of the Church and up to day.
THE MIRACLES OF THE MEGALOKHARI OF TINOS
The whole history of the Holy Church of the Megalokhari of Tinos, from the first vision of the nun Pelaghia and up to day, is full of unquestionable miraculous events, which prove the divine presence and the divine action, there were it is impossible for the normal flow of things to act and to give an explanation.
Even the most rationally minded researcher, however indifferent and abstemious he might try to be when examining the reality about the Megalokhari, he will not be able to avoid the feeling of the presence of the Virgin in every step of his and in the end he will whisper full of piety: ''Great art Thou, o Lord, and wonderful art Thy works''.
Besides, the innumerable offerings are the biggest proof of the miracles, because all of them are an expression of faith, gratefulness and thankfulness on the part of the saved towards the Virgin.
For the sake of the reader, we will mention several of the remarkable and characteristic miracles of the Megalokhari, out of the numerous miracles happening daily, most of which are confirmed by the official written history of the Church.
HOW TINOS WAS SAVED FROM THE EPIDEMY
As the first miracle of the Holy Icon after its finding one should mention the salvation of the island from a terrific epidemy, which carried daily to death hundreds of the island's inhabitants. As witnessed by the historians o that time, as soon as the joyful announcement o the finding of the Holy Icon reverberated in the frozen atmosphere, the epidemy stopped and from that moment on no more cases of the disease were reported. Even those who were attacked by the disease got well again.
THE WELL OF SANCTIFICATION
As told above, the mouth of a well was found during the excavations made in search of the Holy Icon. The well was completely dry and could not be used for anything.
As there did not exist any well near to the building site, on the day of the laying of the corner-stone of the Holy Church, the Bishop sent a small boy to bring some water from the town for the celebration of the hallowing of the waters.
Shortly afterwards the child was back and told the Bishop that the well next to the foundations was full of water. Having heard this the Bishop, accompanied by the notables went to the spot and all of them saw with great surprise that the dry well was now filled up to the brink with water.
They all made the sign of the cross for this miracle and after that took from the well the water necessary for the celebration of the hallowing.
From that time, the water of the well has been used by the pious pilgrims as a sacred water and everybody takes it along with him in special vials and keeps it at home as a talisman.
THE SAVING OF THE ENGLISH FRIGATE.
During one of the first years of the construction of the Church and n a period of great financial difficulties for treasury of the Church, which would have lead to the suspension of the construction works, a big English frigate was anchorched at the beach of the town, which at that time did not have a harbour. On board of the frigate was the English vice-concul H. Flick, a Catholic by confession.
Suddenly, as it often happen in the Aegean, a storm broke out and placed in a difficult situation the master of the frigate, which was in danger of being crushed on the wild rocks of the coast.
The frightened vice-consul standing on the deck saw at a distance the Church under construction and prayed spontaneously for his salvation and promised a substantial amount of money.
It happened them, as told by an eye-witness, that while the storm continued to rage out in the sea, around the frigate named ''As You Like It'' the waters were absolutely calm, as if a divine hand had removed from there the wild waves.
The vessel was saved and the vice-consul, faithful to his promise, went to the Church, adored the Icon and deposited at the treasury 100 Spanish dollars, which permitted the continuation of the construction works.
This miracle is representative of a great number of others, by which the Virgin helped for the works of the construction of the Church never to stop.
THE PRESENT OF THE MOSLEM OFFICIAL.
It is not only among the Orthodox that the Divine Grace acts by the Holy Icon of the Annunciation. It also acts among people of other confessions and nationalities.
As an example is mentioned the case of a Turkish colonel, a Moslem by confession, who was suffering from an incurable disease and visited the Church of the Megalokhari to ask for Her Help. The Virgin granted his prayers and healed him.
Full of gratefulness, the Turk undertook the expenses for the construction of a wonderful marble fountain next to the marble staircase of the upper Church, here the hallowing of the waters is celebrated on Epiphany every year.
THE VESSEL WITH THE FISH.
Around the middle of last century a vessel sailing in the Mediterranean met with an anti-cyclone. The ship fought hard, but the wild waves opened a breach in the ship's hold and it started to sink. The frightened crew, while doing everything in their power to stop the water, sent their warm prayers to the Lady for help. After tremendous efforts and hardships they succeeded to bring the vessel to safety into a leeward harbour.
Their first thing to do was to repair the damages caused by the storm. It was then that they found out to their surprise that a big fish was caught in the breach of the vessel, as a result of which the influx of water stopped. They considered this as a sign of the divine intervention of the Megalokhari and in their faith and emotion they hurried to send Her the ''tama'' (offering).
Thus a model of that vessel, with the fish in the breach, made of gold and silver, can be seen hanging on one of the big icon-lamps of the Church of the Annunciation of Tinos.
THE SILVER ORANGE TREE.
A Greek, who lived for many years in America got blind after a heavy sickness. He heard about the miracles of the Megalokhari of Tinos and asked the Lady with help to give him back his health. He promised that he would offer to Her Grace anything that he will see first.
The divine Grace acted through the Mother of God on the sick Christian , who after many years found again his sight.
Faithful to his promise and full of gratefulness he sent to the Church of our Lady of Tinos his offering, which presents a wonderful orange tree with ripe fruits, bearing on the ends of the top branches fine supports for small lamps, all made of pure silver, because the first thing that he saw after the miracle was an orange tree.
This wonderful offering can be seen on the right side of the entrance.
THE HEALING OF THE DYING KING
In 1915 the King of the Hellenes Constantine was down with a heavy illness. His health deteriorated quickly and his physicians were anxious about the state of his health. A deep sorrow spread among the Greek people, who adored the Warrior-King and followed with agony the development of the illness, praying at the same time for his salvation.
In the general atmosphere of anxiety and pain, the Megalokhari of Tinos appeared as a ray of live-giving light and the hopes of everybody were turned to her.
The Holy Icon was transferred with great honours to Athens and thousands of people accompanied Her to the Palace. It was for the first time that the Icon left Her House.
The King, embraced by the nightmare of the long fever, became aware of the presence of the Megalokhari and with trembling lips asked to kiss Her Icon.
From that moment on the illness started to recede and within a few days the King was healthy again.
The King thanked the Virgin and out of gratefulness dedicated to Her a golden plate on which he is presented riding on his horse.
The offering is attached to the old wood carved praying desk. During the stay of the Holy Icon in Athens, tens of sick people were healed, as is witnessed by many official documents and confirmed by various offerings.
It is a fact that our Kings, continuers of the great Byzantine tradition and faithful Christians, have always expressed their reverence and adoration to the Megalokhari and Protectress of the Nation and many and precious offerings are royal presents.
Lately, the late King Paul asked on his death - bed strength and consolidation from the Holy Icon of the Megalokhari of Tinos, which the then Heir and now King Constantine placed at his pillow during his last moments.
Ocean of Ink would not suffice for the narration of the miracles of the Megalokhari. Innumerable cases are mentioned in his official documents of the Foundation and thousands of pious Christians witness with their letters and offerings the acts of Divine Grace.
As already mentioned, every molecule of the building of the Holy Church and of the Foundation of the Annunciation of Tinos is a living proof of the miracle.
THE NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS
IMPORTANCE OF THE FINDING OF THE HOLY ICON
OF THE MEGALOKHARI.
The finding of the Icon took place when Greece was in a dramatic situation.
Only two years ago (1821) the whole Greek Nation had revolted against the tyranny of the Turks and had declared before God and men its political existence and independence, based on its indestructible moral forces and the help of the God.
All Greeks believed in the sacredness of their fight, since they fought for the basic ideals which compose the human entity, i.e. the liberty and the national dignity. This belief became for the fighting men a deep set conviction and the leaders of the war of independence used to say that God had signed the liberation of Greece.
Thus, when the news spread that on the small island of Tinos the Icon of the Virgin was found under miraculous circumstances and the first miracles became known, all Greek should felt a great joy and came to believe that its finding was a divine sign, which meant an approval of the fight and a confirmation of the liberation.
Great soldiers and leaders of the fighting Nation among them Kanaris, Miaoulis and Kolokotronis, visited the Megalokhari of Tinos and lit before the Holy Icon the candle of gratefulness and reverence.
Thus the history of the Holy Icon is closely bound to the History of modern Greece and the feasts of the Church have always a national religious character, where the Government is officially represented in the presence of high military, administrative and judicial authorities.
THE FEASTS OF THE HOLY CHURCH
OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF TINOS
The Church of the Annunciation is for Tinos the centre of all religious and national manifestations of its inhabitants. All services and doxologies for great historic events are held there.
The most important holidays of Christianity, like Christmas, Easter, the services of the Akathist and of the Passions of Our Lord, are celebrated there in an atmosphere of contrition and surprising greatness, similar only to that of the period of the height of the Byzantine age.
Many foreigners spend their holidays during these feasts on the island of Tinos.
But the feast of the Holy Church of the Megalokhari are mainly the following:
30th January - Anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Icon.
On this day the religious feelings of the believers find strongest expression. The whole population of the island and many visitors, who disregard the winder storms of the Aegean offer their thanks to the Great Mother and Proctress of the Christians, Who deigned to reveal Her Holy Icon for the salvation of all those who really believe.
In the afternoon on the eve the Holy Icon is transferred with great honours to the Lower Church and its placed near the point where is lay buried for centuries. This is followed by a special service dedicated to the finding of the Icon.
The next day, an official episcopical mass is celebrated and by 2 p.m. unde the continuous ringing of the bells of all churches, the Holy Icon is carried through the decorated streets of the town in its gold and silver canopy supported by the church wardens, the local authorities and the representatives of the population. After a short prayer at the quai the Holy Icon is returned to Her marble palace, where a prayer is said in memorial of the builders of the Church, whose tombs are situated at the East side of the Church, and of all those who have sacrificed their fortunes and themselves for the construction of the Church.
After vespers the President of the Church Committee pronounces the panegyric of the day, which refers mainly to the activity of the Holy Foundation during the past year and the planned activity of the new year.
In the evening the school-children lead by the orchestra of the Church march through the streets holding lighted multi-colour lamps and singing various hymns referring to the finding of the Holy Icon.
25th March, The Annunciation of Our Lady.
This day has double meaning for the Greeks, because they celebrate at the same time the Annunciation of Our Lady by the Archangel Gabriel and the anniversary of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, which brought the liberation of our nation.
In the Church of the Megalokhari the celebration has a national religious character, which is attended by members of the Government, who arrive on the eve aboard a special Navy vessel. Very often the celebration is attended by the Royal family, who have have a special respect for the Megalokhari.
Up to the year 1920 great masses of Christians, mainly from the Asia Minor regions flooded the island in order to participate in the celebrations. However, after the exchange of the populations with Turkey and the uprooting of the Greek element from the shores of Asia Minor, the flow of pilgrims from these stopped. Today, inspite of the heavy climate conditions of that time of the year, the attendance amounts to several thousand people.
On the eve a service is held with the participation of navy bishops, after which the Church remains open, permitting the pilgrims to pass the night inside the Church and to offer continuous prayers to the Virgin. Many miracles happen every year these all night long prayers.
On the day of the feast an episcopal mass is celebrated after which the Holy Icon is carried in a procession up to the quai of the town.
23rd July, Anniversary of the Vision of St. Pelaghia.
This day the people of Tinos consecrates to memory of that pious nun Pelaghia, who had the great privilege to be visited on that day in her poor cell by Our Lady and to the first person to annunciate the finding of the Holy Icon.
Early in the morning of that day, accompanied by the nuns of the Monastery and a crowd of believers, is transferred to the Monastery where St. Pelaghia lived. A festive mass is celebrated there and in the afternoon a requiem s held in the cell of St. Pelaghia, where the visitor can still see her humble belongings, her ascetic bed and may adore her holy head.
Later in the afternoon, the Holy Icon is returned to Her Church surrounded by the clergy and thousands of people.
15th August, The Assumption of the Holy Virgin.
This day is concentrated to Megalokhari. Thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Greece and from abroad, surpassing 30.000 people every year, come to the Megalokhari full of faith and threats, warm, implores of Her Grace. Among them are many distressed human beings, physical and mental invalids, persecuted and suffering people.
The representatives of the Government, other official, as well as the military guard of honour arrive on the eve, while masses of people are crowded in front of the Church, trying to adore the Megalokhari and if possible to secure a place inside the Church.
While the adoration continues throughout the night, those who remain nude the Church offer continuous prayers and ask Our Lad to give them health and peace to the whole wold.
Many of them carried away by the mystical and inspiring atmosphere which is created inside the Church and flooded by the lights of faith, come to see the optasy of the Virgin n the trembling light of the lamps and the smoke of incense. Then the shouts, the outbursts of the sacred emotion, ascend to the heavens and electrify the crowds, who in an unworldly uproar sing hymns of thanks, expectation and faith. These are the moments when the Divine Grace chooses to act and to perform miracles.
Mutes find suddenly their voice and mad with joy run to kneel in front of the Icon. Paralytic children, blind girls find again their precious health and in a confusion of shouts and emotions express their gratitude to the Megalokhari.
On the day o the feat, the noise and the traffic on Tinos resemble that of a Megalopolis. Its population of 3000 is increased ten times overnight. Its houses and streets are full with people. In its small harbour a forest of masts is rolling rhythmically and the flags greet the light of the brilliant day of the feast of our Lady, which is also a feast of every Christian soul. On the quai the agitated crowds are moving towards the Church.
In endless queues, which are formed in front of the Church, the pilgrims wait for their turn under the burning August sun to adore Her Grace. The big candles, which every one of them has vowed to light in front of the Holy Icon, protrude from the crowd in the form of real spears and arrows of a strange army fighting for the salvation of its soul.
Black-dressed mothers with children loaded on their backs, persecuted orphans and black-dressed youths, who have lost their health, ascend the wide avenue on their knees. Sweat running down their faces like drops of blood waters the hole earth, their faces changing from the superstension, while continue their hard course, because they have vowed to walk in this way the distance between the quay and the Throne of Her Grace, because they believe that the love and protection of the Great Protectress will be much sweeter, after they have felt the agony and hardships, and have gave through the martyrdom of Jesus Her Son in the ascend to Golgotha for the explanation and the salvation of the world.
At 10 a.m. an official processation of the Holy Icon takes place, after which the clergy and the officials go aboard a special vessel to the point exactly where on August 15th 1940 the destroyer ''ELLI'', one of the best Greek navy vessels at that time, was treacherously and cowardly sunk by an Italian submarine. There a requiem is held and a laurel crown is thrown on the wet tomb of the glorious ship and of the innocent victims of its crew.
At noon starts the departure of the believers by the big passenger liners, which on that day make special passages to Tinos.
All leave the island rebaptized n the eternal source of the Grace of the Megalokhari.
THE STEALING OF THE HOLY ICON.
An event that upset the whole population of the island took place on December 15th 1842.
A young criminal named Christodoulos Dimitriadis, from a small village of Corinthia and living at that time in Smyrna, where he was convicted to imprisonment by the Turkish authorities, happened to pas through Tinos.
He visited the Holy Church of our Lady of the Annunciation but like another Judas, he remained indifferent and unmoved by the sweet complexion of the Megalokhari. It was only the abundant gold and the diamonds that attracted his attention and all of a sudden he conceived in his sinful mind the infamous plan to steal the Holy Icon and take possession of the various precious articles.
He succeeded to escape the attention of the servants of the Church and taking advantages of the solitude and the darkness of the winter night, he did on the gyneconthe and walted there for the moment and traffic outside the Church to stop completely.
Around midnight, when everybody slept he descended into the Church proper with the help of a rope. Without hesitation he grabs from the altar the precious articles and the gold--plated commission cup.
After that, the grim and indifferent, he goes over to the praying desk, extends his dirty hand, detaches quickly the golden offerings, lifts the Holy Icon itself and disappears quickly through the left door of the Church.
When the wardens opened the Church in the morning they remained speechless in front of the villainy. With wild shouts they started to summon those, who lived in the nearby cells. The bells started to ring mournfully and soon the sad news spread all over the town. The governor of the island Theotokis took immediate and drastic measures Patrols were formed, which immediately started to comb the whore island. All vessels were ordered to sail around the island in order to prevent the escape of the sacrilegist.
Special messengers were dispatched to the community chiefs of the island with the instruction to everyone of them to organize a search in his area.
In the meantime the hated criminal reached a distant shore of the island opposite to the island of Andros and tried to cross the straits. Fortunately however, the sailors with whom he negotiated the crossing did not agree on the fare and thus he was obliged to stay in that area, trying to fing opportunity to leave the island.
By noon, when he was trying to still his thirst at a spring, he was arrested by a patrol, which considered him to be suspect. A body search revealed that he carried with him various silver articles the existence of which he naturally could not justify.
He was immediately taken to the Governor, where confessed everything and showed the place where he had hidden the Holy Icon and the various precious offerings of the Christians.
The arrest of the sagrilegist filled the population with untold joy and relief. The lamentations stopped and the sadness disappeared from the faces of everybody. The bells of the churches started again to ring joyfully.
Three days after the theft the Holy Icon was transferred with honours and placed with all its golden and precious offerings on Its brilliant Throne, chosen by the Divine Providence.
The sacrilegist was condemned to a long confinement and dead in prison insane and dispised by everybody.
Ever since the Holy Icon is kept, during the hours when the Church is closed, safe from theft and fire in a special box next to the marble prayer desk.
C H A P T E R II.
THE HOLY CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF THE
ANNUNCIATION OF TINOS
LEGAL STATUS - ADMINISTRATION - MANAGEMENT.
The builders of the Holy Church of our Lady of the Annunciation of Tinos established its Legal Person of Public Law pursuing public social and religious aims, and is covered by special laws and regulations. As a legal person, it has a particular legal foundation, as a result of which it cannot be classified neither in the category of parish churches, nor as a monastery. Its title is ''The Panhellenic Holy Foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Tinos'', it has its proper resources, its proper administration and management and its proper seal.
The Foundation is administrated b a five-member committee of citizens of Tinos nominated b the Perfect of Cyclades.
The administration and the management of the Foundation are under the control of the State represented b competent officials. The office of the Procurator of the Foundation is honorary and unrewarded.
The committee sets up the yearly budget of incomes and expenditures of the Foundation which is subject to approval and control of Ministry of Education and Religions and of Ministry of Finance. The same procedure is foreseen for the repost on the financial administration. The fiscal inspector of Tinos is empowered with the preventive control of the separate expenditures. Finally, all acts and decisions of special importance taken by the committee are subject to the approval of the Prefect of the competent Minister.
The employees of the Foundation are appointed by the committee and are paid by the Treasury of the Foundation. The official Church does not intervene in the administration. The clergy are simple organs of the Foundation, exercising their religious duties in the Holy Church and are remunerated by the Treasury of the Foundation.
The incomes of the Foundation are mainly from voluntary donations of pious Christians from Greece and abroad, the rights of the Church from ritual celebrations, the legacies, the sale of offerings and the rents of immovables.
AIMS AND PURSUITS OF THE HOLY FOUNDATION.
The Holy Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, from its very foundation was an example of an organisation serving a great number of social and national needs with a manifold activity covering all sectors. We can classify the activity of the Foundation as follows: national, religious, educational, philanthropic, social and of public utility.
Besides the religious and moral support given by the miracle-working Icon of the Megalokhari, the Foundation stood many times by the side of the Nation in critical and historical moments.
Thus during the period of the War of Liberation, the Foundation gave many times economic aid to the vessels of liberation fighters, who were protecting the Greek population of the Aegean islands. Later on it offered a substantial sum for the completion of the building of the University of Athens. It contributed to the relief of refugees from Creta and after the Asia Minor catastrophy and the exchange of populations, the Foundation supported financially the refugees and donated land to the State for the Construction of settlements.
During the war in 1940 the committee of the Foundation placed at the disposal of the fighting Nation all its savings, the precious articles and the golden and silver offerings of the Church valued at 5.000.000 drachmas.
In general the Foundation has always been supporting the State in period of national disasters (war, earthquakes, calamities etc.).
One of the first obligations undertaken by the founders of the Foundation was the education of the Greek youth. Even before the liberation of Greece and the organization of the Greek State, a school was operating at Tinos (1825), the teachers of which were paid by the Foundation. During the same period the Foundation set up and supported the French School.
Since then its activity in this section is continuously increasing. Many schools were built with the funds of the Foundation. In 1925 it undertook the expenses for the foundation of the Gymnasium of Tinos and a few years later it spent substantial sums for the construction of a big and modern gymnasium building, which decorates today the big avenue of the town.
In 1957 a School of Arts was founded with the support of the Foundation in the village of Panormous of Tinos, where the artistical feeling is especially developed. The Foundation continues to support this School with important funds.
At about the same period of time, the Foundation undertook in co-operation with the official Church the foundation of a clergy school and the construction of a proper building near subsidizes all the schools of Tinos, by special allocations included every year in the budget and which in this year amount to 260.000 drachmas.
Since 1963, the Foundation has undertaken the obligation by special State decree to grant scholarships to poor but promising students, who desire to complete their studies at schools of higher education in Greece and abroad. Thanks to this institution many young people are studying mainly in France, Germany and England. Among them many have honoured the human values in all spheres of knowledge and art. Chalepas, Gyzis, Lytras, Louvaris and others were all spiritual children of the Foundation.
Today, thanks to the scholarships, more than 150 young people are continuing their studies in Greece and abroad. The relevant expenditure of budget surpasses the sum of 500.000 drachmas.
The students of Tinos can also avail themselves of the services of the Library of the Foundation counting about 10,000 volumes. The Library has a comfortable reading hall.
Mainly a religious centre, the Foundation has been making big efforts for the strengthening of the religious feeling of the people and for the projection of Orthodoxy.
From the very beginning it undertook to remunerate pious clergymen and took care of them and of their families, a time when no assistance or care were offered by the State.
The Foundation showed also an interest in the preaching of the Word of God, and many well-known preachers, who later on ascended to the highest offices in the Church, accepted the love and support of the Foundation in the first steps of their activity.
It disturbs important sums for the support of church organisations and mainly of the Clergy Pension Fund, which received in 1965 from the Foundation the sum of 1.000.000 drch.
It supports with the sum of 250.000 drch. The external orthodox missionary activity and grants scholarships to theologians studying abroad and who desire to transmit the faith of the Nazorean to primitive people of our planet, who have not yet received the baptism of civilization.
The Foundation also maintains and supports all church organisations of Tinos and the parish churches, by providing them with utensils, icons, lamps, cloths, as well as with economic funds, which this year will amount to about 70.000 drch.
It supports churches all over Greece, which were damaged by calamities and earthquakes. Also, no other foundation of the country did offer more than the Foundation of Tinos to the churches destroyed by the Communists.
During the first years of its existence, parallel to the tremendous expenses connected with the building of the Church, the Foundation spent part of its incomes for the care of the poor and the sick, who came to Tinos hunted by the knife of the Turks. Special care was taken by the committee of the Foundation of the orphans created by the adverse conditions of those times, by the massacres and the scourges of war. These orphans were brought up by special people paid by the Foundation and who reported to the committee.
Since then the philanthropic activity of the Foundation has been continuous. It offers monthly financial aid to people who are poor, sick, old and incapable for work. It undertakes the expenses of medical care of the poor, as well as the fares to hospitals in Athens. It pays the tickets and offers material help to poor transients, supports organisations which pursue philanthropic aims inside and outside of Tinos, offers dowry money to poor girls and supports the poor nuns of the Kechrovounion Monastery.
The nun spent for the above activity amounts to 150.000 drch., in 1965, while at the same time the foundation of an orphanage is planned.
During the years of the War of Liberation, at a time when social insurance was completely unknown in Greece, the Foundation took care of the retiring teachers and granted them a pension. It took the same care of the old priests of poor parishes.
Up to this day the Foundation grants a special allowance upon retirement to its employees. It also founded a hospital for paupers, which it maintains up today.
It contributed to the foundation of an alm house on Tinos, which is fully maintained by the Foundation by a yearly allowance of 400.000 drch. In this alm about 30 old men and women live their last years in comfort and pleasant environment.
The Foundation supports various organisations pursuing social aims (tourisme committee, unions, organisations etc.). Lately a philanthropic school with a music band has been entertainment of the citizens and the magnificence of religious and national ceremonies.
In this sector the achievements of the Foundation are really surprising and very big sums were spent, which transformed with time the town of Tinos and the island in general, mainly for the sake of pilgrims and visitors, who enjoy a pleasant stay with all the comforts of modern civilization.
The main works executed by the Treasury of the Foundation may be subdivided as follows:
A new big avenue has been built lately at a cost of 2.000.000 drch., which covered the indemnities paid to the owners of houses along the new avenue, the construction of side-walks and of the road.
Moreover, the Foundation finances the communities of Tinos for the execution of road-building works.
Till 1920 the town was supplied with water from small wells near the Foundation. Since 1925, however, in view of the increased needs, new sources of water were prospected and the aqueduct of the town was connected with water-well lying at a distance of 9 km from town. A few years later another aqueduct was constructed. Previously a second well, lying at a distance of 6 km from the first was connected with the system.
The first work cost 5.500.000 drch. And the second 2.000.000 drch. The construction of the new water-supply net started in 1962, which secured the supply of ample for the whole town and cost 2.500.00 drch. At the same time the wells were reinforced by pumping stations, which pump water from special wells in case of need.
Thus, thanks to the Foundation the town of Tinos has secured the supply of good water in big quantities, the shortage of which is felt on most islands of the Aegean.
Finally, the wonderful quai of Tinos has been constructed, which only few Greek towns have.
As in 1955 the power plant was considered as obsolete, it was decided to electrify the whole island by setting up a new AC power plant with a net of now and high tension. This big work, which cost the Foundation the sum of 10.000.000 drch, changed radically the living conditions on Tinos and accelerated its economic development.
Thus today thanks to Foundation, the town of Tinos and most of the villages of the island have abundant electric power around the clock.
Besides the works mentioned, many other works have been executed and are under execution for the renewal of the buildings of the Foundation, the building of hostels for the pilgrims, the maintenance of the fire brigade etc.
C H A P T E R III.
WHICH ARE THE PLACES TO BE VISITED BY A PIOUS
CHRISTIAN, WHO COMES AS A PILGRIM TO THE HOLY
FOUNDATION OF OUR LADY OF THE ANNUNCIATION
The first thing to do for a believer visiting the Foundation is to go to the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation. He will adore the miracle-working icon of the Megalokhari, execute his religious duties and will walk all around the Church admiring the various offerings and the decoration in general.
Then he will down to the so-called ''Lower Church of the Finding'' and will look for the place where the wonder-working Holy Icon was found. It is a small opening in the floor of the Church covered by a silver plate and it is only 8 steps away from the door. Three meters further on is the sacred water coming from the spring, which, as already told, was miraculously created when the bishop asked for the water for the sanctification of the foundation stone of the Church.
Then, through a portico and guided by the hymns and the burning license, the pilgrims go to the place where the infants are baptized. Over 300 children are baptized yearly in the Church of the Megalokhari. Near there one may see the remnants of a wall, probably of an ancient temple.
Next to this is a small and rather dark chamber, with a special marble baptistery, where followers of other faiths and adults in general are baptized. When leaving the Church, the pilgrim usually takes with him a small quantity of earth from the place where the Holy Icon was found, a small quantity of sacred water from the spring and oil from the lamp of the Megalokhari, which burns continuously, and keeps them at home as a talisman against every difficult moment of his life.
THE MUSEUM OF THE FALLEN OF R.N.S. ''ELLI''
Near the entrance of the Church of the Finding is a small hall arranged as a Mausoleum, where the bones of the victims of the sinking of R.N.S. ''Elli'' are kept. The vessel was sunk on August 15th 1940 outside the harbour of Tinos and the mausoleum contains also various other articles from the proud vessel.
On the tomb an eternal light is burning.
When leaving the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the pilgrim walking in the eastward direction visits the vestry. Previously he passes in front of the graves of the builders of the Church covered with inscribed marble plates. These are the resting places of the first wardens and builders of the Church.
In special showcases of the vestry are kept the golden-laced robes of the bishops and priests, old gospels of great value, golden communication cups and a great number of other items of great artistic and archaeological value, all of which are offerings of pious Christians. One can also see there woodcut Holy Shroud representing the burial of Jesus Christ and the gold and silver painted canopy, in which the Holy Icon is transferred during the litanies.
OFFICES-MEETING HALLS AND RECEPTION ROOMS
Next to the vestry are the offices of the Foundation, where its manifold work is conducted. The Foundation keeps a wide correspondence with thousands of pious Christians all over the world, in many languages and executes their pious desires (celebration of liturgies, requiems dispatch of sanctified articles etc).
Among those who apply to the offices of the Foundation are people who desire to make offerings to the Megalkhari, where their requests are handled with full administrative and book-keeping order, and where they can receive any information about the Foundation. Next to the offices is the meeting hall of the committee and the reception rooms for the official visitors. All rooms are decorated with painting, old icons, photographs of the King etc.
MUSEUM OF TINIAN ARTISTS.
In the Museum are kept various sculptures and paintings of great Tinian artists, who became famous not only in Greece but also abroad, where they studied under scholarships of the Foundation. The pieces of art are more than one hundred in number and each one bears an inscription in three languages, with the name of the artists and its title.
Descending the marble stairs in the direction of the eastern foreyard, the visitor comes to the second hall of he museum, where certain works of the Tinian artists and Academician Antonios Sohos are kept.
THE ARCHIVES OF THE FOUNDATION
The general Archives of the Foundation are near the museum. The files of the archives contain old documents and manuscripts of great value about the witnessing of the first miracles of the Megalokhari, as well as fact and events of past times etc. One can find here the living history of the Foundation from the very beginning of its activities and up to this day.
In the centre of this fore-yard is the big marble fountain, offered, as already mentioned, by a Turkish officer.
THE ART GALLERY OF THE FOUNDATION
In the Western for-yard and opposite to the entrance of the Church of the finding is a big and very interesting Gallery, where numerous paintings of Greek and foreign painters are exhibited, as well as old furniture and various articles of great value.
The above are a donation of a pious Christian and benefactor of the Foundation Ath. Papadopoulos from Athens.
The remaining part of the buildings of the Foundation is composed of a great number of rooms, destined for the free of charge stay of poor families and of hundreds of pilgrims coming to Tinos during the great feasts of the Megalokhari.
THE LIBRARY OF THE FOUNDATION
On the new avenue leading to the Church and below the building of the Gymnasium is the great Library of the Foundation, containing thousands of literary, medical, historical and other books as well as volumes in foreign languages. The Foundation spend every year the sum of 50.000 drch., for the continuous enrichment of the Library.
The Library is open during working days and hours.
THE ARCHAELOGICAL MUSEUM OF TINOS
As already mentioned, Tinos was in ancient times a place of religious gatherings and many deities were venerated in different places of the island and there existed beautifully decorated temples with wonderful sculptures.
The excavations made up to now have brought to light statues of gods and goddesses, of generals and famous men, as well as a great number of clay vases of geometric, archaic, classical, Hellenistic and Roman ages.
Five of them, 2 to 2,5 meters high, of the geometric age, are unique findings in the history of ancient Greek art.
Greek text by Ev. A. Foskolos, Employee of the Holy Foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Tinos
Translation by C. Meihanetsidis.