The Church of the Panayia Evangelistria is the centrepiece of Tinos‘ port town and also perhaps the island’s main attraction. In the early 1800s, an icon was discovered there and the church was built, and since then it has been a destination for pilgrims from all over Greece, especially on the 15th of August.
My early memories of Tinos involve the somewhat irreverent purchase and hoarding of little plastic jugs, theoretically for carrying Holy Water. I liked them because they were brightly coloured.. The church is situated on a hill, and the road leading up to it goes directly from the port, lined with shops selling all kinds of tourists goods as well as religious items. The holy water jugs were down at small-child-level (see what I mean here), and they were an easy-to-pack memory that always came with me when we went home.
Now that I’m a little taller, I can appreciate the beauty of the church too. Inside the sanctuary, the ceiling is almost obscured by votive lamps hung with tamata. These are usually little metal plaques with an image that symbolises whatever has been prayed for, and they are found in many churches throughout Greece (and probably beyond). In the Tinos church though, many of them are very intricate – my favourites were tiny ships that seemed to be floating from the lanterns, brought as thank-yous for safety at sea.
Underneath the church is also a World War II memorial, commemorating the torpedo-ing of the battleship Elli in 1940, while it was anchored in the Tinos harbour on the 15th of August holiday. This was one of a number of events that led up to Greece entering WWII, so the memorial serves as a reminder that although Tinos seems a little sleepy especially compared to its neighbour, Mykonos, there was a time when Tinos’ church had a stronger pull than Mykonos’ nightclubs. Now that the reverse is true, Tinos has not seen anywhere near the development that Mykonos has – and I am, at least, am grateful for its authenticity.