Tinos is a Greek island, part of the Cyclades on the Aegean Sea. Its earlier name was Ophiussa (Ophis means Snake in Greece – the island was once infested with a huge number of snakes) and Hydroessa (Hydor is Greek for water and the name came because of the number of springs on the island). It’s a small island of less than 10000 residents and 200 sq kms situated a 20-minute boat ride from the more famous Mykonos.
Tinos is not too popular among tourists, but quite a draw for Greeks. This is because of the Church of Panagia Evangelistria. The island is beautiful in a subdued way with its many windmills, artistic dovecotes, small villages and the remains of Venetian fortifications at Exomvourgo, a small mountain on the island. The fortifications hark back to the early history of the island when it was ruled by a private Venetian citizen and then the Venetian state before being captured by the Ottoman Turks. Oh, and by the way, given the chaos in the politics of the region, Tinos was one of the hubs of the rampant piracy in the region.
The Church houses an icon of Virgin Mary which is apparently miraculous as a worker of miracles for devotees. A pilgrimage draws huge crowds here on 15th August, the date of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. The devotion is so fervent that many pilgrims go n their hands and knees from the ferry port to the Church!
The natural beauty of the place is fabulous with the sea and mountains all around. To add to this natural beauty, people have made the most unusual stone structures – for instance, every village is connected to the next one by stone walkways set between a parallel set of stone walls.
The big draws here are:
- The most famous Church of Panagia Evangellistria
- The women’s mountain-top still-inhabited nun-monastery of Kechrovouni
- The basket-makers of the village of Volax
- The valley of pigeon houses
- The fab fish dishes of Panormos
- The surfing
Despite all this, the island and life around here revolves around the Church and the miracles worked by the legendary icon of Virgin Mary. The Panagia (Virgin Mary) Megalochari, the patron saint of Tinos, is considered as the saint protector of Greece. Historians date the legendary icon of Virgin Mary from the 7th century A.D – the Byzantine period. It was originally built on the site of an early-Byzantine church dedicated to Saint John, which was actually built on the site of an ancient temple of Dionysus, as excavations have shown…
A work of art outside the church actually symbolizes the faith that seems, to me, to seep into every aspect of this lovely island… It is of a lady on her hands and knees with one hand raised in silent supplication to the Panagia. The visitors to this island, the residents, the shops… all seem to imbibe this overarching spirit of faith and supplication… The casual visitor cannot but be influenced too. I was too. And that’s why the peace – especially after the buzzing life in the other Greek islands like Mykonos and Santorini.