August 26, 2015

The Mysterious Hole in the Chapel of Saint Adrian in Nafplio

Located 5km northwest of the town of Nafplio is the small village of Agios Adrianos (which in Turkish times was called "Katsigkri" after a Turkish Pasha), where a beautiful chapel can be found on a hill dedicated to Saints Adrian and Natalia, who are celebrated on August 26th. In this chapel is an iconostasis with a mysterious hole below the icon of the Virgin Mary, and is considered by many believers to be a miracle of Christianity.

The chapel itself was built during the Turkish occupation in 1743, perhaps over the ruins of a more ancient church. A document, written and sent to the Venetians in 1696, mentions the existence of the chapel and remains the most tangible proof of its erection prior to 1743 or of one that existed before it. For 250 years this chapel was abandoned, until a nun named Zoe in the early part of the 21st century decided to renovate it and restore it along with its surrounding huts, since it was a hermitage. Many of the 18th century frescoes have been preserved in the chapel. It should also be noted that though Sts. Adrian and Natalia are celebrated together, this chapel is specifically dedicated to St. Adrian, whose miraculous icon within depicts him alone riding on horseback while being crowned by an angel.

One of the peculiar features of this chapel that draws the attention of visitors is a small hole beneath the icon of the Virgin Mary on the iconostasis. Upon initial examination, one observes that this hole is small enough to fit a small child, but certainly not an adult. Tradition states however that despite the apparent small size of the hole, a full grown adult can pass through this hole with relative ease, regardless of size or weight, for whom the hole will allow to pass through. This tradition has been verified over and over again by visitors of many sizes who have all passed through this small hole, to everyone's amazement.

When inquiring as to the purpose of this hole, locals will say that it is a matter of faith, which is able to move mountains, and since Saint Adrian is considered a miraculous Saint in this area, this hole was made to show the faith of the sick who would pass through three times to be healed. Today it is often used by childless couples. This is probably why the hole is called "the passage of the stout, possessing faith."

Whether the passing through this hole is a miracle or natural and just a matter of mathematics and physics is beside the point. What is certain is that the hole was opened at some point in time to be a means towards a miracle. The idea behind it may perhaps be certain icons where the Gate of Paradise is depicted as narrow and difficult to pass through while the Gate of Hell is wide open and passed through with ease.

But why is the hole located beneath the icon of the Virgin Mary? Perhaps it recalls the Akathist to the Theotokos: "Rejoice, only gate that only the Logos has gone through, for in your giving birth you shattered the bars and gates of Hades. Rejoice, all-laudable, divine entrance of those who are being saved." The Virgin Mary is the Gate by which the faithful enter Paradise, which is typified by the Holy Sanctuary.

This hole, therefore, represents an experience of rebirth, where one leaves the Nave of the Temple (the world) and enters into the Holy Sanctuary (Paradise), the Holy of Holies, by means of a narrow and difficult passage. And this journey is above all a journey of faith.