Monday, June 20, 2016

100 Places in Greece Every Woman Should Go: A Church that Grows Trees


Chapter 52: Saint Theodora's Chapel - The Miracle of the Rooftop Trees

Deep in the heart of Greece's Peloponnese lies a tiny church that sprouts trees. It seems hard to believe, but seventeen mature trees literally grow from the roof of this eleventh-century structure, something that scientists have been unable to explain, and that others call a miracle.

The story of the church dates back to the 10th century. In a lush mountain gully near the village of Vastas, lived a girl named Theodora. At the time a law stated that every family needed to send at least one male to fight as a soldier or be forced to pay a tax. Theodora's family was very poor, and to avoid her father having to serve duty, she volunteered. When bandits raided the region, Theodora disguised herself as male, calling herself Theodore. She not only managed to keep her identity a secret, her valient fighting won her many admirers. Among those included a young woman from the region who became infatuated with 'Theodore' and spread a rumor that she had become pregnant by him. Theodora's commander gave her two options: either marry the girl or face execution. Theodora could have saved  her own life by revealing her identity, but this would have caused her father to face punishment, so she did what saints do: took the retribution herself. Upon her death she was heard to cry out: "Let my body become a church, my blood a river and my hair the forest."

Moved by the bravery of this young woman, the locals erected a church at the site of her grave. Legend has it that a river rerouted itself to run beneath the chapel, and that its holy waters nourish the miraculous trees that sprout from its roof. Some say the entire site feels like a living, breathing relic, and there are those who believe Theodora's deathbed wish came true: that her body became the church, her blood the river, and that her hair became the magical forest of seventeen trees sprouting from the chapel's roof. 

15 comments:

  1. LOVE this stuff. Exactly the kind of obscure yet strangely magical place that I'd love to visit. Thanks, yet again, for another adventure where folklore, history, mystery, and archaeology meet!

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    1. I love this stuff, too, Thomas - anything with a hint of mystery is on my radar ;))

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  2. Very interesting Amanda. Can't believe they haven't torn the church down. Does the state care for it?

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    1. I meant the trees tearing the church down.

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    2. Some scientists believe that the roots go through the church walls and somehow stabilize the structure, but no one really understands how the roof can support this kind of weight! It's more likely the Orthodox Church cares for the building and not the government, which is in an economic crisis right now.

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  3. I have never heard about this place, looks amazing indeed!
    Thanks, Amanda, for your nice comment under my last post:)

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    1. Like you, I love the Greek islands, but the Peloponnese is a well kept secret in Greek travel :))

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  4. It is precisely this type of thing that fill one with awe about the unknown in our world.

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    1. Agreed, Michelle. I love that Greece is full of this kind of mystery ;))

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  5. Wow, amazing story and church! I must go to Greece and see this in person.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to go, Sarah, you would love the Peloponnese.

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  6. What a lovely legend. Or is it? Sometimes I find that many legends are based in reality.

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    1. Good question! It's possible Theodora's story is true - she loved her father so much she sacrificed her life for him, but did the river actually reroute itself and the church grow trees? Who really knows, but one of the things I love about Greece is these local legends.

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  7. count me too for loving this stuff. what a great story. as i read it, do you think it's true, amanda? do you?
    love
    kj

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    1. The older I get, KJ, the more I believe in mysteries...

      xoxo

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