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August 23, 2010

The Annual Miracle of Panagia of Harou in Leipsi

Panagia of Harou is the name of the unique icon which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Christ, rather than the Christ child, hence its name (haros in Greek means "death"). This icon is found in the Church of Saint John the Theologian in Leipsi, Greece. The annual commemoration of the icon takes place on August 23 when the island of Leipsi fills with pilgrims from all over the Dodecanese, to witness the procession of the icon around the entire island and see the annual blossoming of the dead bouquet of lilies on the icon.

In 1943, during the Nazi Occupation, a family whose home was adjacent to the church tried faithfully and respectfully to save some of its meagre supply of oil in order to light the Virgin's vigil light. On the 25th of March 1943, the feast day of the Annunciation, the families youngest daughter left six white lilies in front of the Panagia's icon, together with a prayer for a speedy liberation of the country. The lilies wilted, then in August the flowers started to revive and on the 23rd of August they had sprouted 12 new buds and gave off a beautiful fragrance.

Ever since then, this miracle is repeated every year,except the year of the death of that devout young woman who first brought the flowers to the church. In spring, the devotees put lilies on the icon and the flowers are left there to wither. In an inexplicable way, the withered branches start giving buds and on the day of the celebration, they blossom and become fragrant. The inhabitants of the island consider this a special celebration. The pilgrims and the locals enjoy a feast after the Great Vespers, with food, drinks and dance to traditional music.

The Monastery of Panagia of Harou was built in the early 17th century when two monks from the island of Patmos came to Leipsi. The icon today is placed nearby at the Church of Saint John the Theologian for convenience.

A video about Leipsi and the miracle (6:40 and on in the first video) can be seen below.