Today’s icon of the Theotokos is inextricably tied to the country of Greece. Rediscovered during the beginnings of the modern Greek state, the Panagia of Tinos is now considered the patron saint of Greece.
Tradition holds that the Panagia of Tinos was written by St. Luke the Evangelist. The beauty of its depiction of Our Lady, kneeling with head bowed in acceptance as Gabriel announces the Good News, was so admired, that for a time it disappeared to protect it from the Muslim invasions of the Empire.
Four centuries later, in the Monastery of Kechrovouniou, Sister Pelagia was visited by the Virgin Mary, who told Sister Pelagia to unearth a buried miraculous icon, as well as the site of a 10th century church that had been destroyed by pirates. Initially, Sister Pelagia ignored these visions, believing them to be the product of an over-active imagination. However, the Theotokos appeared to the Sister one final time, rebuking her unbelief; and warning her that she could fall ill if she continued to refuse.
Sister Pelagia then visited the local bishop who unbeknownst to her, had received a similar report from another local resident. Convinced of their validity, the Bishop gathered all the surrounding town to begin a search for this icon in September 1822.
During the course of the excavation, the ruins of a chapel were indeed discovered, and below this, the remains of a 4th century church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Forerunner.
The cornerstone for the new church was established on January 1 1823, and it was named in honor of “the Life-Giving Spring”, due to the remains of a well that had been excavated near-by. And it was near this well that the icon was recovered, in two pieces. The first, showed the Archangel extending a lily. When the second half was unearthed, it showed the Theotokos, kneeling in prayer.
The Church of the Panagia Evangelistria has since become a major pilgrimage site, particularly on the Feast of the Dormition (August 15th). The icon (which is considered to be the most venerated icon in all of Greece), the baptismal font, and other holy implements are covered in jeweled and silver votive offerings from the many pilgrims, most of whom crawl from the street leading to the church and through the entrance, in preparation for encountering the wonder-working icon. Some of its most notable miracles include: healing a blind man, a disabled child, and even King Constantine of Greece. Local tradition also holds that it was the protection of Theotokos that allowed the Greek ship, the Helle to repel an attack launched against it by the Italian Navy–on August 15, 1940.