Panagia of Tinos
The church and icon of the Panagia Evangelistria of Tinos (Our Lady of Good Tidings) is a the most venerated religious icons in all of Greece. It is located on the island of Tinos in the Cyclades of Greece. The icon is a beautiful portrayal of the Virgin Mary kneeling with her head bent in prayer. Their are four major festival days are commemorated in association with this icon and church: January 30, the annniversary of finding the icon; March 25, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary; July 23, the anniversary of the vision of the nun Pelagia; and August 15, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
How to get there
To get to the island, know also as the "Island of the Winds", one must take a Greek state ferry from Athens. The voyage will take approximately three hours. Disembarking at the port, a few 100 metres to the left, a pilgrim is immediately confronted by the famous street that leads up to the cathedral. It is a long uphill slope, lined with many merchants either side, selling ecclesiastical bits and pieces such as oil lamps, replica icons, postcards etc.
It is traditional for many pilgrims to fall on their knees, at the beginning of this street, cross themselves and then crawl the entire length of the street on their hands and knees (this is a physical ascetical offering of the pilgrim in preparation of meeting the Mother of God - a podvig). This offering is done in supplication, mainly in thanksgiving for prayers answered and less common in repentance.
This icon is regarded as being older than the Byzantine period. Many scholars regard this icon to even be the work of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke. It is assumed that this icon was so highly esteemed in the Byzantine era it was either hidden or lost around the time of the Moslem invasions. The icon was rediscovered miraculously and the construction of a church was begun and completed by 1830. Even before this church was finished, pilgrims started visiting the island of Tinos from all of Greece. Numerous reports of miracles have increased the fame of this Church to the point that this is the most venerated icon in all of Greece.
the Icons finding
According to the tradition, the Mother of God appeared to Sister Pelagia, a local nun from the Monastery of Kechrovouniou requesting her to unearth a wonder-working icon buried. The sister ignored this vision on many occassions considering that it was merely her imagination, however, the Virgin Mary appeared to her one final time and rebuked the nun for her disbelief and warned her that she would fall ill if she continuted to resist.
The tradition continues that the sister visited the Bishop for his thoughts on her visions. A few years earlier, another local had visited the Bishop for the same request by the Mother of God. The Bishop, therefore, believed that these visions were authentic, and he rang the church bells to gather the entire town and inform them of the request.
Excavations commenced in September of 1822. While searching for the icon, ruins of a small old Byzantine chapel were found and this in turn covered the foundations of a 4th-century edifice that had been dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. In the vision to Pelagia, the Virgin Mary had told her that this church had been burnt down in the 10th-century by Arab pirates.
The cornerstone for the church was laid on January 1, 1823 and the chapel was named "Zoodogos Pigis" in honour of the "Life-Giving Spring" since an ancient well had been found on this site also. On January 30, the excavations were continued and as locals from the village of Phalatas where leveling the foundation a few metres from the well, there shovel struck the icon. They uncovered the half of the icon with the Archangel Gabriel holding out a lily to the Mother of God. They later discovered the matching half of the Virgin kneeling accepting her role in the Incarnation. These two pieces have since been joined together.
The Evangelistria Church
This large church is made of marble, sourced from the islands of Tinos and also from Paros, with traces of green-venied Tiniot stone. Outside, it has an architecturally distinctive bell tower which was built in 1824. The courtyard of the church is paved with pebble
Within the walls of the church are various museums and galleries. To the left is a gallery for 19th-century religious art, there is also a gallery housing Byzantine icons and also various offices. Another gallery is the sculpture museum which is up the flight of stairs. There is also a small Archaeological museum just below the cathedral.