Theodora of Vasta
The holy and glorious Virgin-martyr Theodora of Vasta, Arcadia, Megalopolis, of the Peloponnese in Greece, is commemorated by the Church on September 11. She is not to be confused with St. Theodora of Alexandria (d. 491) who is commemorated on the same day. She is reported to have lived in various centuries: third, seventh, tenth, and eleventh.
St Theodora lived during the tenth century on the Peloponnesus in Greece, near the border between the regions of Messenia and Arcadia in a town called Vasta. When the area was raided by bandits, Theodora was determined to help defend her village, but as a woman it was unthinkable to do so. Not to be deterred, Theodora secretly disguised herself as a male soldier in order to join the defense. Unfortunately, Theodora did not survive, and as she lay dying she uttered the following words:
"Let my body become a church, my hair a forest of trees, and my blood a spring to water them."
The villagers, moved by her bravery and her untimely demise, built a church at the site of her grave. A local river re-routed to pass directly under the church. Eventually, trees sprouted from the roof of the church, the roots of which are not visible under the roof and neither inside or outside the church.
Her story is often mistakenly combined with that of St Theodora of Alexandria, who cut her hair, dressed in men's clothing and entered the Monastery of Octodecatos, under the male name of Theodore. A promiscuous young woman slandered her, saying that Theodore had made her pregnant.
Chapel of St. Theodora in Vasta
The Chapel of St. Theodora is located just outside the village Vasta of Megalopolis in the Peloponnese of Greece. It was built between the 10th and 12th centuries. According to tradition, the construction of the church is intimately linked with the martyrdom of Theodora.
This small chapel supports 17 large trees that emerge from the roof and the walls of the chapel. Each tree weighs close to a tonne and stands over 20 metres high. For hundreds of years, the roots have not been visible. Locals could not find a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Many researchers have spent years studying this structure, even X-raying the walls, but have no explanation for the roots of the trees. In 2003, a geophysical report was presented at the 4th Symposium of Archaeometry in Greece. The results of this investigation proved that the roots followed the gaps existing inside the stone wall of the chapel creating repulsion stresses between the stones and thus reaching the ground.
The entire building is under considerable pressure due to the large load of the trees and it is a miracle that after hundreds of years, the chapel survives with no damage to the structure or to the trees. A spring comes out from underneath the chapel and irrigates the trees.
- Το θαύμα στη Βάστα (Greek)
- Theodora den hellige fra Vasta - munken, der rettelig var en kvinde (Danish)
- Vasta on Wikipedia
- The Little Church of St. Theodora with the 17 Logs - Arcadia, Greece (photograph)
- Ag Theodora (photograph)
- Saint Theodora's church (video)
- About the geographical area of Vasta - Wikipedia
- The Geophysical Research at the Church of Saint Theodora at Vasta Megaloupolis abstract from the 4th Symposium on Archaeometry, May 28-31 2003.
YouTube Video links:
Sources in Greek: