May 31, 2017

The Tradition of Unbaptized Dead Infants in Crete

In many places of Crete we encounter churches where the locals once buried their unbaptized babies, called "telonia" by Cretans. In other places, such as mountainous west Crete, instead of burying them they dropped them in caves. What is interesting about the churches where they used to bury the unbaptized children is that they usually honor the name of Saint Paraskevi. It has not been established why Saint Paraskevi has been associated with the telonia, therefore this requires more research.

One of the most important churches used for burying telonia is located near Kritsa, in the area of Koulbado. This church, commonly known as the Church of Saint Paraskevi at the Telonia, is also very important as it is a single-aisle church, probably built in the Byzantine Era (indicated by the typical ceramic bricks encountered in Byzantine churches) prior to the Venetian rule of Crete.

Locating the position of this church is almost impossible as it is quite far from Kritsa and it is surrounded by incredibly dense vegetation. It is also on the side of a stream drowned in the incredibly dense vegetation that covers it completely on each side. The rough dirt road that approaches the church does not reach exactly there but stops before it. The result is that even if someone arrives directly above the church it is impossible to see because nothing is visible beyond the myrtle trees and plane trees.

Saint Paraskevi today unfortunately remains unknown and ruined without a roof for years or centuries and all this despite the fact that this is a really important monument of the area. The church bears high artistic value frescoes, which are unfortunately exposed to bad weather and the humidity of the rains. Even today we can discern some Saints and the Dormition and the best preserved representation is that of the Virgin Mary in the Sanctuary. The church's interior is full of vegetation. Interestingly at four different points of the interior of the church there still appear built-in ceramic vases that functioned as speakers. It is only a matter of time when the frescoes will disappear completely and the church falls into complete ruin.