Monday, June 21, 2021

A Cave Church Dedicated to the Holy Spirit and Its Miraculous Holy Water in Crete


By Eleni Vasilaki

Just outside the settlement of Armeni in Sitia, rooted in the cliffs, is the Cave Church of the Holy Spirit with holy water dripping from its roof.

In fact you will see two caves shaped like churches, the first is dedicated to the Holy Spirit and the second to the Holy Trinity. However, only the first one liturgizes and is ensconced while the second one was made as a vow of a believer but it was never consecrated and has not been liturgized.

The inhabitants of Armeni and the neighboring villages especially honor this chapel and have something to say about the miracles that took place with its holy water. Furthermore, on the day that the Holy Spirit celebrates, local farmers offer a large amount of milk that is boiled on the spot and given to the faithful.

The Tradition for the Church

The place where the church was built is called Damaged Haraki. Tradition says that in Armeni lived a very poor family with the surname Alysavakis.

The couple had three daughters, Eleni, Despina and Elizabeth, who suffered from conjunctivitis.

The three little girls took the few animals of the family every day and grazed them. At some point they were also in the Damaged Haraki.

While Eleni was sitting on a rock, she saw a bird piercing through a pile of stones in the cave, where the church is today and which at that time was just an opening with a rock roof.

The little girl went to the spot to look for the bird and perhaps find its nest. She started to take out the stones one by one and when she pulled out the bigger one she found a small puddle of water underneath and next to it a piece of painted wood.

She took some of the water with her little hand and washed her eyes to relieve the pain caused by her condition. But immediately she felt a huge difference and it was as if her problem miraculously disappeared. She immediately called her other two sisters and instructed them to do the same.

All three thus began to see normally and their problem disappeared. In the evening, returning home, they took with them the painted and old-fashioned wood, told the story to their father and handed it to him.

When he cleaned it, he saw a dove painted on it and the phrase "O Your All-Holy Spirit, in the third hour, You sent to Your Apostles, therefore do not withold this from me also, Good One."

The fact of the healing of the girls and the finding of the icon of the Holy Spirit was learned in the village and so it was decided at that point to close the entrance and to form a chapel. This icon still exists today.

Another tradition tells us that initially an attempt was made to keep the icon in the village, but it left at night and returned to the cave.

Miracles

The holy water that runs from the roof of the cave is considered miraculous and as Nikos Asfentagakis, a native of the area, told us, there are many miracles that have been reported after its use.

He even told us one of Barba-Stylianos, from Katsidoni, Sitia, who was married by the Armeni. Stylianos had lost his sight and one night he secretly decided, without anyone taking him seriously, to ride his donkey and go to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

The animal knew the route and led him to the spot with ease. Crawling himself, since he could not see, he managed to reach the small church and searching with his hands he found the place where the holy water fell.

Then he said the Symbol of Faith (Creed) three times and with great reverence and faith he took some water and with it he cleansed his eyes. Then he turned to the entrance of the small cave and could not believe what happened, although he wanted it very much and waited for it. He had begun to see, he distinguished the outline of the door and outside it he saw the starry sky. Naturally, until the end of his life, he never stopped thanking God for the miracle and talking about it at every opportunity.

Mr. Asfentagakis remembers when he was a small child going to the chapel with his friends in the afternoons as they had found that two white doves had entered the nest and nested.

They made their cross when they came in and carried some bread with them and fed the doves with its crumbs. Returning to the village when asked where they had gone, with all their childish innocence, they replied that they had gone to feed the Holy Spirit. He still remembers how much they cried when they saw the priest of the village putting a grid so that the pigeons would not enter and dirty the church.

Today the Cave Church of the Holy Spirit may not accommodate doves but it is whitewashed well and white like a dove. A simple wooden iconostasis closes the depth of the cave, where the sanctuary is formed. The icon of the Holy Spirit, loaded with the vows of the faithful, tells us its own story, in its own way, as all these pieces of metal carry on them expectations but also thanksgiving for small and big miracles.

At the same height as the end of the iconostasis, a jug is placed for this holy water to drip into from the only point of the cave where we have a drip. However, a quantity of holy water appears only on the day that the Liturgy takes place in the church and in fact at a specific time.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 







Cave Church of the Holy Trinity, next to that of the Holy Spirit


 
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