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February 16, 2010

The Wood Carved Statue of St. George in Kastoria

One of the most unique churches in Greece dating to Roman times is the Church of St. George in the village of Omorfokklissia, 20 km from Kastoria. The name of the village means "beautiful church".

The church was established after 1292 during the reign of Emperor Andronikos II. The iconography dates to either 1296 or 1297. Some say the church building itself or an earlier one existed from the 11th century. The rocks from which the church is built are not local. It is traditionally held that this church was the katholikon of an old monastery.

The unique feature of this church is a large wood carved statue of St. George, 2.86m in height, that is of unknown origin. Some say the statue was the gift of the Emperor from Constantinople and either brought to Omorfokklissia or carved in the village from local trees. The most popular tradition says that two nuns brought the statue here from Ioannina in the 13th century in a carriage.

During the Turkish occupation the church was heavily damaged. Yet it is said that when the Ottomans went to burn the church, they allowed the locals to remove the wooden statue of St. George, ensuring its preservation.

The faithful claim the statue of St. George is miraculous. A Greek news report was done about the miraculous nature of this statue with many testimonies (see report here). These miracles especially are reported on the feast of the church, which is April 23. Along with miracles, visions of St. George are also said to have occurred in the church. At one point the faithful covered the statue with a glass casing to protect it from humidity and dust, but St. George appeared in the dreams of the faithful in the village to remove it.

An interesting folk belief, not necessarily associated with Orthodox belief, has arisen associated with this statue. Upon observation, one will see the statue covered with coins. The locals believe that if you approach the statue with firm faith in St. George, then your coin will stick as if magnets were holding it (this can be observed in the video linked above). Studies have shown however that there is nothing measurably magnetic about this wood carved statue. No one really knows why this occurs, but it is looked upon as something miraculous. And visitors are discouraged from believing that if their coin does not stick, as it often happens, that their faith is not strong enough. They say that St. George has his reasons for it to stick and for it to not stick.

For a picture gallery of the church, see here.