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August 22, 2010

A Miracle of the Panagia in 1694 Kefallonia

In 1694 the island of Kefallonia was invaded by fierce pirates, as was common on the island in those days. Along with their treasures and their booty, they would also steal young men and women to sell for a hefty price at their bazaars in the East.

In the village of Agios Dimitrios which neighbors Lixouri, they arrested three young men and brought them bound in chains to the North African city of Algiers. There they were thrown in a dark cell awaiting their ill-fated end. There the walls of the prison groaned with pain emanating from the other prisoners. The prison was filled with Greek-speaking Romans who would constantly offer up supplications to the All-Holy Virgin to deliver them and console them. The prisoners knew they were hopeless without her aid.

In the midst of such hopelessness, darkness and pain the three young men prayed to the Panagia to deliver them from a martyric end and have them die there in the prison quietly. They said:

"Our Panagia, do not abandon us to an evil death. Take us with you. Ease us from our pain."

As they prayed, they fell asleep...and awoke hearing birds. With their hands and feet tied with heavy chains, the three young men questioned this. "What is that sound, my brothers?" asked one of the Kefallonians. With that question they began to hear a joyful bell. And in front of them they saw their village! The Panagia brought them miraculously from North Africa to their village which was celebrating the Apodosis of the Dormition of the Theotokos on August 23rd.

They went to the church of the Panagia and saw their mothers and relatives. Still in chains, the three young men embraced them and all were in tears from their joy and their miraculous deliverance. After venerating the icon of the Panagia, the three young men mutually decided to become monastics and dedicate their lives to God.

If you visit this village and church today you will see the chains which held these young men in bondage hanging near the icon of the Panagia as a testimony to the reality of their miraculous deliverance. It was near this church that they built two monastic cells which became the first Hesychasterion.

To commemorate this event, a plaque reads: "The miracle occurred on 23 August 1694. Iakovos, Georgios, and Ioannis. Rejoice, for you were freed from the corruption of death through the prayers of the Mother of God."