December 4, 2014

The Cave Chapel of Saint Barbara in Kefallonia

The small chapel of Saint Barbara is located outside Argostoli in Prokopata, in a cave beneath the main road.

The area was originally called Agios Varvaros, after Saint Barbaros the Myrrhgusher (May 15). According to tradition, in 1912 a young refugee was playing and fell from the road down the ravine, but landed on the ground without suffering any injury in the slightest! The child himself is said to have told that he was helped to descend by a woman arrayed in white garments. From that point the villagers began to see burning an unquenchable flame from winter through the summer. When, a few years later, they found the courage to explore the mystery of the flame, they went into the cave and found an icon of Saint Barbara. They attributed to it that miracle and brought it to Argostoli, where, according to tradition, it stopped a major epidemic that had broken out and decimated the people. The mother of the child dedicated her fortune to building the chapel and took care to open a well at the top of the ravine where there is a highway today for the refreshment of pilgrims.

The cave chapel was built in honor of Saint Barbara, which you can see from the road, as there is also a bridge there. From 1953 onwards, the miraculous icon of Saint Barbara disappeared - probably stolen.

The church celebrates on December 4th, and according to custom, the faithful boil wheat (kollyva) and offer it to the congregation, in commemoration of the salvation of the island from the epidemic, thanks to Saint Barbara.