This Unassuming Greek Island Has over 700 Churches
With many inviting beaches, plenty of natural beauty and a sacred aura, Tinos is the third largest island in the Cyclades, located near Syros, Mykonos and Andros. This little gem has been spared of mass tourism compared to its neighbors, which many credit to the protection of the Virgin Mary, but is known throughout the Orthodox world as a major pilgrimage destination.
With a long Venetian tradition, Tinos is often seen as a miraculous place, since the discovery of an icon of the Virgin Mary, thought to possess healing powers in the Church of Panagia Evangelistria (Our Lady of Good Tidings) or Church of the Annunciate Virgin, built in 1823. Since then, Tinos sees thousands of devout pilgrims visit the pristine island, especially in August, for the celebration of the Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin, where thousands of visitors crawl to reach the church to pray for a miracle or a blessing, sometimes as mundane as passing an exam, giving the island the status of the Greek Lourdes.
Besides the majestic Renaissance-style church, the island is home to over 700 churches and chapels (more than in the Vatican), of which some are Catholic. Why so many churches you ask? Well, it is very simple. While many parochial churches were built during the Byzantine era, Tinos boasted a special agreement with the Ottoman authorities, once the land was conceded to them by the Venetians.
The Tinians were free to build as many churches as they wanted, which was a novelty at the time. As such, a small family chapel was built in every property, as owning a church was seen as a blessing for locals. The tradition was transferred throughout the years up to this day. Another reason is that, as with many other islands, Tinos has a high number of sailors and seamen, and people took up the habit to build some chapels dedicated to the patron saint of sailors. As a rule, today, it is not rare to stumble upon a church or a chapel in the forest, in gorges and in other inaccessible places.
Besides this incredible number of churches, the island, also known as a paradise for hikers, boasts a complex of roughly 40 villages which have conserved their authentic charm and beauty and are also known for their many pigeon houses, or dovecotes, dotting the Tinian landscape. Built with skills and intricately decorated, these are another vestige of the island’s Venetian past.
While you can visit the island virtually at any time of the year, try to come during the summer, as the period coincides with a rich cultural program of events and celebrations, such as the mountain running race Tinos Marble Trail, the Tinos World Music Festival, the Kyklos Kykladon, a festival held on four islands of the Cyclades, or even the Tinos Festival.