February 16, 2021

Synaxis of Panagia Plikatiotissa

Synaxis of Panagia Plikatiotissa (Feast Day - February 16)
The history of the village of Plikati in Konitsa of Ioannina at an altitude of 1200 meters is combined and parallel with the tradition of the finding of the miraculous icon of the Panagia Plikatiotissa that has blessed the village since 1770.

According to tradition, the icon was found as follows:

Shepherds were grazing their sheep in a place called Pestilepi south of the village Dentsiko, today called Aetomilitsa, east of the settlement Phetokos, of today's Theotokos, and saw in the darkness in the opposite forest a bright light.

At first they assumed it was a throng of thugs but the light was there every night in the same place, visible only at night, so they finally decided to visit the spot, and went there but found nothing.

But the light was still there, and they thought of doing a trick: They set up forks on the ground and rested a staff on them placed in such a way that it aimed exactly where the light was shining.

The next morning, guided by the staff to indicate the point, they started to find the light source, they searched the place carefully, but they got tired because the point was densely forested.

Feast of the Icon in 1916.
Searching, under a large cedar (according to others under a large oak) they found the Holy Icon of the Theotokos.

They approached and with deep reverence venerated the Theotokos and transported her to their camp.

They decided to then transfer the icon of the Panagia, but they let the Panagia decide for herself and so they loaded the icon on a lame horse, on one side they put the icon and on the other as a counterweight some wood but it was not necessary because the icon balanced itself, and so they set the lame horse free.

The lame horse took the path that led to Plikati on its own and they were surprised to see that the lame horse was no longer limping but was walking steadily.

A shepherd, seeing the horse carrying an icon, ran and alerted the village and the priests, dressed in bright colors, holding censors and all the villagers with lighted candles, went out to the opposite forest of Palesi to welcome the Panagia and transport her to the village, where she is still today.

The church in which the icon was placed at the beginning was built around 890 and this church survives to this day. But the icon did not stay there!

The priest of the village observed for a long time a transfer of the icon inside the church, where it would move from the shrine to the entrance of the church and the priest with much reverence and fear of God picked up the miraculous icon and put it back in its place, not understanding what the Theotokos wanted.

Feast of the Icon in 1925.

One Sunday after the Divine Liturgy, the following miracle happened: the icon rose from the shrine by itself and stood on the priest's shoulder.

The priest, led by the icon, reached the middle of the village and there the icon came down from his shoulder and stood on a wild rose and next to that point were the ruins of an older church. It is probable that the icon was there before it was found in the forest while at the bottom of the church to the east there was a source of clean water, the current "Great Fountain of the Panagia".

At that place a church was built in 1775 in the name of the Dormition of the Theotokos, according to the desire of the Panagia.

Then the miraculous icon, after indicating the place for the construction of her church, rose again on the shoulder of the priest who began a procession with the faithful Christians.

They went quite far outside the village where at a location she came down and stood upright on a stone which still exists today.

So he signaled that a church should be built here and indeed at this point a chapel was built in honor of the Nativity of the Theotokos called "Panagiopoula". Then the icon was transferred by the priest and the faithful to the village where they had started.

The church built in 1775 was of a basilica style, of normal dimensions like a catacomb.

To the north was the school and to the southwest the guest house, it had high gated walls and heavy doors at the three entrances to the courtyard, while everywhere as well as in the women's quarters there were still frescoes of unattainable value.

The VIII Division on its own initiative, as a sign of "gratitude for the victory of the army in the battle of Grammos in 1948-1949" unfortunately demolished the old church and built a "modern" one, in the years 1951-1953, while it should have preserved and saved it as a great religious monument.

The Synaxis of Panagia Plikatiotissa is celebrated solemnly and with all splendor on February 16 with the attendance and participation of all the surrounding villages and a great Litany.

The Icon some time between 1920-1930.

1. Older locals say that when the believers placed a coin on the icon, it sat on it like a magnet pulling metals, while the non-believers' coin fell down.

2. During the procession of the icon from the central church in Panagiopoula (the chapel near the village), to the people who lifted it and had no sins it seemed light as a feather, while on the contrary those who had sins felt the icon very heavy and labored during the transportation.

3. Many times on the day of the feast or on the eve of an event, the priest and the villagers observed tears in the eyes of the Panagia.

4. Tradition says that a sterile woman, who did not have children, made a fervent supplication before the icon and heard a voice during her prayer: "You will have children." That same night she saw in her dream the Panagia holding her head. Indeed, this woman had children.

5. The icon has solved many droughts in the past. Many times it was dry for 40, 50 and 60 days. Then the villagers all fasted for three days and on the fourth after the Divine Liturgy they took the icon, and the priest with everyone chanted along a procession where they went to three chapels and to the plain. Immediately after returning to the church, a satisfying rain began to fall. The school teacher and writer of the book "The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Plikatiotissa" (1981) Pavlos Tattis vividly remembered that in a similar ceremony in 1927 while the procession began with a clear blue sky, within an hour and something that the route lasted before returning to the church it rained torrentially.

6. In the village there lived during the Turkish occupation families of Turkish-Albanians, and in a drought ceremony some agas were sitting in the middle of the village and when the procession of the icon passed by one of them, he said: "O Christians, if it rains today with what you do, I will change my faith and I will become Christian!” (It had not rained for 45 days). As soon as the procession returned to the church, it rained heavily. The Muslim Turkish-Albanian became a Christian. Another donated every year on the feast of the Panagia and on large feasts a sheep.

7. During the Turkish occupation, during the period of the Philiki Etairia, a part of the army from Erseka (Albanian city) entered the village to burn it, and as soon as they reached the church where the main road passes, their horses stopped and did not move, then one of their leaders said: "You have a great Saint here." Then the villagers rose up and said: "Yes we have a miraculous icon of the Panagia." Then the leader told them the reason for the visit and they left the village without disturbing it.

8. During the wars, the Panagia helped the village many times. Officers and soldiers confessed to the miraculous intervention of Panagia Plikatiotissa and out of gratitude built at the top of Grammos, at 2520 meters, a chapel to commemorate the Panagia, the ruins of which are still preserved today.

The Feast Today

The celebration begins on February 15 with the preparations. The villagers help by contributing in their own way. After supper, the women gather in the church and decorate the icon, while at the same time the meal for tomorrow is prepared, which is offered to all the pilgrims after the end of the church service the next morning.

The next morning with the first light of day the bell invites the inhabitants of the village, but also the pilgrims who visit the village this day to venerate the grace of the Panagia, announcing the beginning of the Liturgy. After the end of the Liturgy, the procession starts reverently from the central church of the village and following the icon, making the perimeter of the village, with an intermediate stop just outside the village at the chapel of Panagiopoula on the rock that the Panagia indicated to build a chapel. It should be noted that the chapel is preserved to this day. The procession ends again in the church.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
You revealed your divine icon in light, which of old was hidden in the forest All-Immaculate One, and invisibly rising up on the shoulders of the priest wondrously, you gave yourself as a gift to Plikati in your divine compassion. Glory to Him Who gave you grace Pure One, glory to your greatness, glory to your goodness towards us O Virgin.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.