“There is more to the Cycladic island of Tínos than the all-encompassing holiness associated with its venerated Church of Virgin Mary/Panagia Evangelistria and its miracle-working icon. But the hulking form of Greece’s major Marian shrine is the only reason I paid the island a visit from nearby Mýkonos meaning that overtly-religious Tínos may just be as adept at drawing tourists as it is pilgrims.”
Image || Church of Virgin Mary/Panagia Evangelistria, Tínos. May 2, 2017.
Tínos, Cyclades, Greece
There is more to the Cycladic island of Tínos than the all-encompassing holiness associated with its venerated Church of Virgin Mary/Panagia Evangelistria and its miracle-working icon. But the hulking form of Greece’s major Marian shrine is the only reason I paid the island a visit from nearby Mýkonos meaning that overtly-religious Tínos may just be as adept at drawing tourists as it is pilgrims.
dMb Country Overview - Greece
Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Athens. Population – 10.8 million. Official Language – Greek. Currency – Euro (€) GDP (nominal) per capita – US$21,000 Political System – Unitary parliamentary republic. EU Member? – Yes (10th member joined January 1981). UN Member? – Yes (founding member joined October 1945). G20 Member? – No. Size – 132,000 km² (Europe’s 15th largest country is approximately half the size of Ecuador, twice the size of Sri Lanka, and roughly the same size as the US southern states of Alabama and Louisiana. Topography – A mountainous interior (80% of Greece is mountainous), a long and convoluted coastline, and hundreds of offshore islands. Independence – 1830 from the Ottoman Empire following 1821 to 1830 Greek War of Independence. Brief History – From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states, known as poleis (singular polis), which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea. Philip of Macedon united most of the Greek mainland in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to India. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, which adopted the Greek language and culture. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century AD, helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. After falling under Ottoman dominion in the mid-15th century, Greece emerged as a modern nation state in 1830 following a war of independence. UNESCO World Heritage sites – 18. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogan – All Time Classic. Famous For – Endless coastline and beaches; shipping; democracy (born here); a classical and hallowed past; ouzo; sun-drenched islands; Alexander the Great; the Olympics; being the cradle of Western civilisation; food (tzatziki, feta, souvlaki, moussakas, yogurt, grapes, olives and olive oil); economic collapse & austerity.
Highlights – Cyclades island-hopping and the remnants of all that ancient history (Greece boasts four millennia of sun-bleached ruins, artefacts, and architecture). Greece Titbits – At nearly 14,000 km (8,500 miles), Greece has the 11th longest coastline in the world; Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilisation, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, Western drama, and the Olympic Games (the country’s rich historical legacy is reflected in part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as of 2017); the Greek economy is the largest in the region with an economy larger than all other Balkan countries combined, this despite its well-documented economic battering and subsequent austerity measures.
Visits – 2 (May 2008 and April/May 2017). Where I Went/What I Saw – Thessaloniki; The Cyclades (Santoríni, Paros, Mykonos, Delos, Tinos); Zakynthos/Zante; Olympia; Sparta; Mystras; Athens.
Aside from the religious significance that sets it aside from all other Cyclades islands, Tínos is an island with its own look, feel and attractions – uncrowded beaches, unspoilt whitewashed mountain villages, dovecotes, quiet tavernas, windmills, and even ruined Venetian fortifications. But this is primarily a pilgrimage island where both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic populations co-exist. The ‘Lourdes of Greece’, the so-called ‘Catholic Island’ (it has the largest community of Catholics in Greece) is renowned throughout the country for its Church of Virgin Mary/Panagia Evangelistria, the calming spiritual aura it casts over the whole island, and the thousands of worshipers it draws every year.
There’s really only one show in town, assuming that town is the Tínos capital of Tínos Town. The story goes that in June 1822 the Virgin Mary appeared to a nun by the name of Pelagia revealing the location of a buried icon on the site of a former Byzantine church and, further back still, a temple from antiquity dedicated to the Greek god Dionysus. A bit of digging was needed but eventually the icon was unearthed in January 1823. The icon, a statue of the Virgin Mary kneeling with her head bent in prayer, is thought to be the work of the Apostle Saint Luke and a sacred icon of the former Byzantine church that was either lost or hidden during the Muslim invasions.
With the icon found, a shrine was needed to house it, especially with the island’s newfound reverance already drawing large numbers of pilgrims. Built in the Renaissance style from local marble, the Church of Virgin Mary/Panagia Evangelistria was inaugurated in 1830. More than just a single church, it’s actually a monastery complex with a few churches, one of which houses the icon that now is almost completely encased in silver, gold, and jewels and that’s attributed to many a miracle. Like any such Marian apparition site worldwide – Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Knock in Ireland, Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina etc. – the church, Greece’s most popular pilgrimage location, draws pilgrims by the truckload, especially on March 25 and August 15 each year, two major annual pilgrimages when crawl space is at a premium.
Signing Off | The Complete Tínos Gallery