Every year on August 15, Greeks all around the world flock to churches and monasteries to commemorate the Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary — the second biggest religious celebration in Greece after the Resurrection of Christ.
Also known as the passing of the Virgin Mary from earthly life, the annual celebration yields an extra meaning on the Greek island of Tinos, where thousands of religious pilgrims endure scorching heat as they climb on hands and knees from the island’s port to reach one of Greece’s most important religious monuments.
The church of the Evangelistria on Tinos was built in 1823 to house an icon found in 1822, and for decades has attracted thousands of Greek Orthodox faithful who believe their pleas for a miracle will be answered by the Virgin Mary.
The church’s highly-venerated icon is widely believed to be the source of numerous miracles and is almost completely encased in silver, gold, and jewels.
In order to protect pilgrims making the ascent from the port, the town has taken extra care by adding road dividers and padding on the concrete.
Pregnancy and illness are thought to be the biggest reasons for a pilgrimage, as many women crawl on gloved hands and padded knees with the firm belief that they will conceive or that a loved one will get better after the important passage.
Furthermore, the commemoration has a unique national heritage that dates back to Greece’s entry in World War II, when on August 15, 1940 — a few months before Greece’s epic “no” to the Italians — an Italian torpedo sunk the Greek warship Elli off of Tinos’ coast.
As a result of this connection, Greeks also mark the August 15 celebration with a military parade featuring Orthodox clergy members and navy servicemen who honor the icon.
These festivities and pilgrimages have been taking place for decades on Tinos, as rare footage from the British Pathe Agency shows a lively preparation and celebration, as well as worshippers and pilgrims, in 1947.
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