Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Our Summer Saint. (2

Saint Paraskevi has a small church dedicated to her in the valley below  the ruins of the great temple  to the sea god, mighty Poseidon, often depicted trident aloft
arising from the churning waves

Saint Paraskevi was known as the Great Virgin Martyr of Rome

She suffered enough for a dozen lifetimes and never lost her faith.

  Not for the faint of heart.
- She was tortured with a steel helmet lined with nails
-Was hung by her hair and had her limbs seared with torches
- Immersed into a kettle of  boiling oil and tar
- Thrown into a pit with a large snake
- Placed in a kettle of oil and tar again
- Tied and beaten and a large rock placed on her chest
- Beaten

And having survived unscathed through all these trials and tribulations she was decapitated.

She is usually depicted in her icons holding a pair of eyes as she is the protector and healer of the eyes.  Parts of her skull and other relics are held in Moni Petraki in Athens, Monasteries on Mount Athos and Santorini.

The little church here in our neighbourhood celebrates on July 26th.  The church has two services, one on the evening of the 25th and on the morning of the 26th.  Both are very well attended.  Many bring holy loaves to be blessed and handed out after the services and those named after her, Paraskevi (female) or Paraskevas (male) will bring trays of cakes and sweets to share with the congregation.

I usually make five sweet loaves called 'artos' and take them down in a big wicker basket lined with a clean white cloth, alongside a bottle of oil for the wicks in the church, a bottle of communion wine and candles which are poked into the bread and lit when the blessing takes place.

We brought nothing with us this year because of my broken finger.  I made sure the grandchildren received big hunks of cinnamon smelling bread and they had some jelly sweets and custard type cakes pressed on them by some motherly Yiayias eager to share their boxes of  goodies.

Walking down to the church amongst the cyprus trees

Sharing out the bread after the service

Lighting a candle

 A friend of
 ours, an athiest, always goes first to the church to light a candle as soon as he arrives on the island. He attends both services, standing outside, though says he doesn't listen to the priest. He is just there to honour the saint. One day I'll learn the rest of his story.

Her church is
 always whitewashed before the fiesta and in recent years the courtyard has been cemented and half a dozen benches put in around the wall.  Most of the worshippers will stand up outside or sit outside in the extra chairs provided.  Inside the space is tiny.

This year we took the grandchildren in the early morning and only made it in time to catch the last few words.  Perfect timing for me.  But it doesn't matter if you aren't there from 7am (when I heard the bells ring out, breaking our rural silence).   We weren't the last to arrive.  You come to light a candle, kiss the icon, maybe hear some of the service, and to see and be seen.

We always spend more time greeting friends and neighbours in hushed voices and surveying the crowd gathered under the cyprus trees and the brilliant pink bougainvillia.  The bougainvillia and a leafy vine of some sort are  trained over the tiled canopy in the courtyard giving very welcome shade even at 9 oclock in the morning.


Down below beside the sea is our local Vagionia beach.  On the hill above is Paradise Taverna.  These are where everyone will head to after church.  Families go up to the taverna to dine under the vines, eating spit roast chunks of pork known as 'kontosouvli'.    Those seeking an all night 'glendi' (revelry) with whole roast pork and live music head down to the beach.


  1. Life over here is very different. The only celebration we have coming up is bonfire night (not religious) on November 5th and then Christmas Day. Call us a religious people I mean, The Beatles have always been bigger than any church to us. Football grounds are our new churches.

  2. Our Summer Saint returns today, and it looks like she will stay. She has no name, but is hot and sultry.

    1. Hope she blesses you all for a long while yet.

  3. No saints here, i wish we had some and few celebrations too, very hot and dry days, that's all.

    1. Hot and dry. That's summer!!
      We have a cool breeze from the north today but it will disappear by the weekend and temperatures will rise again

  4. We celebrate with village things like ploughing matches.

    1. I would expect nothing more from you solid Norfolk farmers.

  5. Replies
    1. Rachel will have to explain. Two tractors making straight furrows?

  6. Hi, I've just spent the last couple of weeks reading your blog from the beginning!! Love to read about your family and all the Greek recipes and traditions. I follow a couple of blogs in NZ fairly close to where you are from-around Hamilton.

    1. Hi Janice. You've been having a marathon read!
      I was born in Hamilton. And I probably read the same two blogs. A breath of real NZ lives!

    2. The ones I read are

    3. Yup, that's them! Enjoyable both. Dinkum kiwis!

  7. Saint Paraskevi has a small church dedicated to her in the valley below the ruins of the great temple to the sea god, mighty Poseidon, often ...