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Religious Pageantry in Tinos

Tinos, Greece

The small Cycladic island of Tinos is home to a very special icon. The icon of the Virgin Mary, founded by the nun Pelagia in 1922, is homed in a spectacular neoclassical church called Our Lady of Tinos. It is believed that the nun found the icon as she was directed by the Virgin Mary herself in a dream. Our Lady of Tinos is not only attributed to have performed a number of miracles, being known as the Greek Lourdes, but it also reflects national identity as it was founded within the first days of the declaration of Greece as a modern independent state and is the Patron Saint of Greece. The icon is encased in gold, silver and jewels, and is surrounded by gifts, while outside the church pilgrims make their way up to the building on a special rubber mat on their hands and knees.

But on the 15th of August, the day of the Dormition of the Virgin pilgrims arrive in thousands. The harbour is crammed with boats, the hotels overflow and many visitors camp outside waiting for the big day. Firecrackers, cannons and brass bands drown out the orthodox liturgy, which is broadcasted around town. Shopkeepers do roaring trade in icons, candles, incense and votives. Bundles of incense are lit and fill the streets with fragrant smoke. To the solemn sound of bells, the icon leaves the church carried under a gilt canopy ushered by clergymen dressed in orthodox finery amongst a forest of candles. The procession sweeps downhill under packed balconies, jostled by joyful pilgrims. At the harbour, speeches are followed by commotion: cheers, ships’ sirens, fireworks, bands and every bell in Tinos competes to honour the Virgin. As the pilgrims disperse and the icon is carried back to its home, optimistic elation mingles with incense smoke drifting into the summer breeze.

This unique festivity is an opportunity to gawk at foreign beliefs and yet be transported into a different and deeply traditional culture. Tinos is reachable by ferry from nearby islands. For example, flythomascook operates regular flights to Santorini from several UK locations. Allow yourself to be torn away from the beautiful beaches to view a truly unique spectacle that merges religious fervour with secular traditions.

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