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July 18, 2023

The Athenian Festival of Saint Marina of Thiseio and the Shocking Miracle That Took Place in 1911

The old Church of Saint Marina below the Observatory at the end of the 19th cent.

By Eleutherios Skiadas

We have written a lot about the "Lady of Thiseio", the temple that stands proudly below the Observatory.*

At one time on the day of its celebration, that is July 17th, the biggest festival of Athens took place there. By various means, believers arrived from the surrounding villages, Mesogeia and Katadema, to light a candle for the Saint and pray for the health of their children, because Saint Marina is considered the protector of children. They called her and still call her a "wonderworker".

There are many folk traditions, legends and recorded cases of miracles that have occurred. Such a miracle also happened in 1911 that shocked the faithful.

It was Saturday afternoon and among the crowd of believers was Kalliopi Kounadis, a girl who had lost her voice. Next to her was her mother, who was praying to the Saint to save her child. The fact that the doctors had disappointed her saying the girl would not regain her voice had plunged the family into despair. Terrified, the mother suddenly saw the girl convulsing. She immediately started screaming for help.

The whole congregation was disturbed by what they saw. Prayerful whispers were heard from everywhere and some women shouted:

"A little holy water, a little holy water."

As it happens in these cases, confusion prevailed and everyone tried to help in their own way. While the mother was in agony, and the congregation was watching in fear and with intense feelings of sorrow, two words came out of the girl's mouth: "A little water!"

The pious women holding the holy water immediately ran to give her a drink and to make the sign of the cross over her with a piece of the honorable wood of the True Cross. Everyone embraced with understanding and admiration as to what took place with the young lady, who contributed to her household economy by sewing men's clothes. A brunette with messy hair and dressed in black, she looked around impressed. From the next day, the house at 6 Plataion Street in Metaxourgeio, where the girl lived, experienced unique scenes.

Journalists, believers, the curious and not so curious all wanted to meet up close the girl who found her voice again. The family politely tried to prevent visits, wanting to enjoy the joy and return to everyday life. However, the indisputable event caused a lot of discussion since it was not like other cases.

No one could explain what had happened. Restrained, the priest of Saint Marina urged everyone to believe in Science as well as in God. Besides, he himself narrated in those days many cases of miracles that he had experienced in the temple, in which he had been serving since 1895.

Both with this case, and cases that had preceded or followed, the experienced priest protected them with his silence.

"The Saint does not need advertising" he pointed out to the commissioners and the women who helped the work of the church.

And Papa-Theodoros Mataragas, who served the church until his old age and in difficult times, was absolutely right. However, there were not a few times when remarkable events came to light. That is why mothers made sure their children went to Saint Marina.

The new Church of Saint Marina of Thiseio

There was also a nice custom that was lost over the years. There were not a few of those who saw to it that a liturgy was held on Saturday. They would take their sick child to church and make sure to remove their old clothes and put on new ones before taking them to the icon for prayer.

* The National Observatory of Athens is located between the Acropolis and the Agora, and below it is the Church of Saint Marina.

Source: From the book The Athenian Neighborhoods: Southwest of the Acropolis (Οι Αθηναϊκές Γειτονιές: Νοτιοδυτικά της Ακρόπολης). Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

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