Last updated on February 23rd, 2020 at 03:06 pm
The Our Lady of Tinos Church, or Panagia Evangelistria, is the most well known landmark on Tinos Island in Greece. Here’s a guide to this famous Tinos Church.
Among Greeks, Tinos is known as an island connected with the Greek Orthodox religion. Many Greek people make a pilgrimage to the famous Panagia Evangelistria church of miracles. Here is what you need to know about the most famous church in Greece.
Tinos Island in Greece
The Greek island of Tinos is an up and coming destination for visitors looking for quieter alternatives to Mykonos and Santorini. With its great beaches, quaint villages and unique landscape it’s not surprising, but Tinos also has something else in store – the Panagia Evangelistria.
Our Lady of Tinos Church – Tinos Panagia
Our Lady of Tinos church is located right in Chora Tinos. In Greek, we call it “Panagia Evangelistria”, “Panagia tis Tinou” or “Megalochari”. It is a unique church with great significance.
The church has a great deal of significance to Greek Orthodox Christians, as is a pilgrimage center drawing people in from not only Greece but around the world. There are several major celebrations a few times per year. The biggest is the Dormition of the Virgin on the 15th of August. Thousands of people visit to pay their respects, and maybe ask for a wish to be granted.
A Red Carpet for the Devout
The impressive Panagia Tinou church is built up on a hill. You can’t fail to notice a red carpet, stretching all the way from the church down to the port. This is in place for people visiting Tinos on a pilgrimage. After leaving the ferry, they will head towards the church on their hands and knees.
The church is open on a daily basis from early in the morning until late in the evening. It seems to be busier in the mornings, when some pilgrims visit on a day trip from Athens.
History of Tinos island church
Like many churches and monasteries in Greece, the Panagia Evangelistria church has quite an interesting story.
In July 1822, a nun who lived in Kechrovouni Monastery in Tinos, named Pelagia, had three dreams of Virgin Mary. According to the nun’s description, the Virgin shone more than the sun.
In the dreams, the Virgin explained that an older temple containing Her miraculous icon was buried in a local person’s field. She then asked Pelagia to organize the excavation of the icon and the construction of a new church.
Soon afterwards, the procedures started. The Metropolitan Bishop, the local authorities and the people of Tinos all worked towards the holy cause. It took them many efforts to unearth the miraculous icon οn 30 January 1823. The icon depicts the Annunciation of the Virgin, with the Archangel Gabriel. A spring of holy water was also discovered on the site.
We mentioned earlier that the church celebrates a few times a year. Apart from the 15 August, other dates to remember are
- 30 January, when the icon was discovered
- 25 March, the day of the Annunciation of the Virgin
- 23 July, the date when Pelagia saw the last of three dreams
On these dates, there is a mass and a ceremonial procession of the icon in Chora Tinos. On 22 July, the icon is transferred to Kechrovouniou monastery, where Pelagia lived, for 24 hours. It is then taken back to Panagia Tinos.
Tinos church – Miracles are real
The icon was unearthed shortly after Greece’s Independence War against the Ottoman Empire. Its discovery was instantly received as a miracle, especially considering that the Cyclades hadn’t been liberated yet. Discovering a Holy Icon was a definitive sign that the Revolution was happening for a just cause. It also meant that the islands were soon going to be part of Greece.
As the news broke out, people came from far and wide to worship the holy icon. Several fighters of the Independence War also travelled to Tinos to pay their respects. These included Kolokotronis, Karaiskakis, Kanaris, Nikitaras and Miaoulis.
The Panagia Tinos church was built on the exact site where the icon was discovered. The materials used included marble from the nearby island of Delos. As the island had many skilled marble workers, there was no shortage of working hands.
The construction of the Panagia Tinos church was completed in 1826. The courtyard was finished several decades later, in 1880.
Upon entering the church, you will see the miraculous icon on your left-hand side. You will immediately notice dozens of small metal plaques and other objects. These are votive offerings which have been gifted by the pilgrims.
There are several stories behind these donations, many of which have been given by people who experienced a miracle. The Independence warriors mentioned above have all left some of their personal belongings as a sign of respect.
The holy water flows freely from a fountain inside the church. Many people bring a bottle to fill, and you will see small souvenir bottles being sold outside the church.
The museums around Panagia Tinos church
By Greek standards, Panagia Tinos Greece is a pretty big church. It can take you a while to explore all rooms, especially during the busiest times of the year. Unless you are prepared to queue, you might not be able to go inside the church.
Apart from the church itself, there are several rooms around the courtyard, hosting a few exhibitions. These important collections are free to visit, though sadly photography is not allowed. You may find some of the exhibitions more interesting than others.
The room downstairs, to your right, is an exhibition of Icons and Relics. It contains a collection of rare Byzantine icons, some of which are hundreds of years old. Take your time to explore this room, as the art is truly superb. Visiting with a Greek-speaking person, or just asking the polite employee, will enhance your experience.
Downstairs in the courtyard, you can also visit the Portrait Gallery, which contains several paintings and portraits.
You will find a few more exhibition rooms upstairs. Perhaps the most impressive is the Sacristy, which hosts a rich collection of ecclesiastical objects. There are a lot of silver objects and gold embroidery in this room.
If you have already visited Pyrgos, you will be familiar with a number of Tinian artists. If not, you can start familiarizing yourself with their names in the Museum of Tinian Artists. You will see several paintings and sculptures but prominent artists, such as Filippotis, Sohos, Lytras and Gizis. There is also a dedicated Antonis Sohos Museum, where works by the local sculptor are exhibited.
You may be interested to know that there are several souvenir shops around the church, where you can get copies of Byzantine icons.
The Elli Mausoleum in the Tinos church of miracles
Going back downstairs, you will also see the Elli Mausoleum. To appreciate this small monument, you would need to know a bit about the history behind it.
On 15 August 1940, on the day of the Dormition, thousands of people were in Tinos to honour the Virgin. Among the vessels participating in the celebrations was a Greek protected cruiser, named Elli. At the time, Greece hadn’t been involved in WWII yet.
Out of the blue, an Italian submarine, Delfino, fired three torpedoes against Elli. One of them hit its target, resulting in nine people being killed and 24 being wounded.
In order to avoid a conflict with Italy, the Greek government did not officially acknowledge the nationality of the submarine. Still, it was well known that it was Italian. After the war was over, Italy offered Greece a new cruiser, which was renamed Elli.
The small mausoleum was built in memory of the first victims of WWII in Greece. You can see a few objects that were on the original cruiser. Down by the port, you can see another monument dedicated to the nine sailors who died.
Greek Easter at our Lady of Tinos Church of Miracles
If you happen to be in Tinos for Greek Easter, you will experience a unique cultural event. Easter is celebrated all around Greece, but it’s of particular importance in the most religious areas.
On the evening of Good Friday, you can follow the Epitafios procession. It’s a solemn event, where people walk behind the Epitafios, a flower-clad representation of Jesus’ coffin. The procession begins and ends in the church, similarly to everywhere in Greece.
In addition, do not miss the midnight ceremony on Good Saturday, when the Resurrection happens. Hundreds of people gather outside the church, expecting the Holy Light from Jerusalem. You can then enjoy a traditional meal of mayiritsa. This is a hearty soup containing lamb liver, a few obscure meaty ingredients and a thick lemon-and-egg sauce.
Here’s a little more about Greek Easter traditions.
Lady of Miracles – Panagia Tinou
We hope that our article has shed some light on the Lady of Tinos church. If you have any more questions, please ask in the comments! As for other things to do in Tinos beyond visiting the famous church, have a look at this article on the best things to do in Tinos.