When the FAST FERRIES gets into the port of Tinos, the magical sea breeze of the Aegean island and the magnificence sight of Virgin Mary’s cathedral ahead leave you transfixed, mesmerised. Many thoughts come to mind… but also pictures! Pictures of the believers who go to worship Virgin Mary’s icon, sometimes in order to fulfill a vow and some others to simply thank her. Whenever one visits the island, will meet crowds of people swarming from all over Greece and all around the planet.
The story of the icon
The miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary was found after a vision the Holy Sister Saint Pelagia had in her sleep three weeks continuously. She saw Virgin Mary asking her to organize excavations for the discovery of her Icon. Madonna’s icon was found at Chora, at a field owned by Antonis Doxaras. The excavations started in September 1822 and the findings were not only very important but unexpected too. They were the ancient temple of Dionyssus and the church of Saint John Prodromos. No sign of the icon, though, something which clouded the Holy sister’s claims. The works started again, more decisively and willfully this time. Finally, on the 30th of January, 1823 – feast day of the Three Holy Bishops – at noontime Dimitris Vlassis’ hoe struck on the miracle – working Icon of the Virgin Mary Annunciation.
The Revolution’s Part
The joyous message of the Icon’s discovery was spread quickly to all parts of Greece which had risen in revolt and was considered the most important holly message of the Greek Orthodox Christianity for the righteousness of the revolution. From the very first pilgrims who arrived in the island were Miaoulis, Nikitaras, Makrygiannis and Kolokotronis who offered his ring to the Virgin Mary’s Icon.
The Erection of the Cathedral
Soon after the discovery of the Icon started the works of the Cathedral’s erection. Huge quantities of marble were required which were carried from the nearby Dilos island and a great number of workers for the carving and laying of the marble stones. The islanders assisted generously to the erection of the cathedral, by means of personal work and money. Until the middle of 1832 the east wing of the complex was erected and the completion of all the works were finalized in 1880. The church is a triclite Bassilica with a dome over the Altar. It consists of two five-arched marbled colonades with four fullbodied marble columns which start from the facade and end at the temple. The temple is wood- carved, the lower part of gold plated wool and the upper part of plaster with wooden cornices. It follows the designs of the most noteworthy post-byzantine designers and woodcarvers. It was constructed in 1825 by Fransisco Kanahilis. Besides the Bell tower and the main facade no major changes have been made until this day. Special mention must be done to Rigas Fereos Charta, one of the three authentic ones that have survived since 1797.
Tinos’ Great Feasts
The four great feasts in Tinos are: January 30 when they celebrate the anniversary of the Icon’s discovery, March 25 when they celebrate the Annunciation, July 23 when they celebrate the anniversary of Saint Pelagias’ vision and August 15 when they celebrate the Assumption. The morning of August 15, a Pontifical Liturgy is conducted at the Cathedral. During mass, the Government’s representative, the Chief of the Navy Forces and other high officials go aboard a war ship and throw wreaths at the point where the War Ship ‘Elli’ sank with all hands aboard after being hit by Italian torpedoes just outside the harbor on August 15, 1940. After the conclusion of the mass, a grand litany follows with the icon’s ciborium carried by Naval sailors while swarms of people pass stooping under the icon – which is considered a miracle worker – beseeching her blessing, especially the ill. Honorary parties from the three military forces – Army, Navy, Airforce – the Police Force and the Fire Brigade surround the Icon.