July 17, 2015

The 12th Century Chapel of Saint Marina on Mount Parnitha

Mount Parnitha is located about 25km northwest from the city of Athens and is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Athens. It extends in a large area, presenting variable topography with several summits, gorges, streams and plateaus. On the northern side of this mountain, behind the village of Avlona, in Vountima, near the river Martheza, in a densely forested area which reminds visitors of the beautiful landscapes of Mount Athos or Ireland, sits a 12th century chapel dedicated to Saint Marina.

It was here in the early 12th century that, according to local tradition, a shepherd had a vision indicating the location of a cave which contained a hidden miraculous icon of Saint Marina. After finding the icon, people risked their lives for a period of three months to build this remote chapel in 1117 A.D.

Today pilgrims make this difficult journey every year on July 16th for Great Vespers and July 17th for the Divine Liturgy to celebrate the feast of Saint Marina. The chapel is located next to the cave where the icon was discovered, and to enter the cave one would need to climb forty stairs. The icon itself is not located in this remote chapel, and in fact no one knows its location today. During the Greek Civil War the value of the icon became known, and being unprotected high up in the mountains it was decided for it to be held in the Chapel of Prophet Elias in the camp of Avlona in Viliza. But there also it was unprotected and thus stolen. It is a large icon in which Saint Marina is depicted as a mature 15 year old girl, full bodied and in a frontal position, and to her left stands a demon which she is striking with a hammer.