Pilgrims of Panagia Charakiani in Rethymnon

GREECE. Crete island. Rethymnon . Monastery of Virgin Mary of the Rock (Panagia Charakiani). Pilgrims living for 15 days in self made sheds around the Monastery, for the fast before the Assumption of Mary.
Photography / Text: George Tatakis

Every year, during one of the most important Orthodox days in Greece, the memorial day of Mary's Assumption, a very interesting custom takes place, around 38km away from Rethymnon city in Crete island. 

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani and a pilgrim in front of it. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani and a pilgrim in front of it.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

There lies the Mary of Charakas. The location was named Charakas (big stone, 'Charaki' in the Cretan dialect, coming from the ancient Greek word 'Charax' ), after a huge monolith in that place. From what I heard, the church was built there, because someone found the icon of Mary thrown at a cavity of this very monolith, an icon that is now considered to be sacred by many.

This icon is kept at the Monastery of St. Pavlos, where the church of Charakiani belongs to. The icon is moved to the church for the date of August 15 and attracts many pilgrims from all over Crete. Actually, many of them choose to visit the church on foot from their houses, a road that may last for many hours. 

Evening Mass at the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Evening Mass at the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

A peculiar thing takes place during this time. There is a custom that some pilgrims will be living in self-made hats made mostly of straw and/or other materials, like nylon sheets, old irons, doors and so on at a nearby field. They will be staying there for the 15 first days of August to keep company to the icon. 

Pilgrims of Panagia Charakiani in Rethymnon - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Pilgrims of Panagia Charakiani in Rethymnon
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
A hat outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

I have only arrived on the 14th, as I had heard about this customs while being in Anogia village. I didn't know that these people were living in their hats for all these 15 days, so at the time I arrived, most of them had left their hats. Only one 'hardcore' couple was still living there. I met them over Raki (traditional strong spirit made of distilled grapes, very common in Crete) at the canteen next to the church. They gave me more information about the custom, told me where they come from. The wife was the local one and she remembered that she first swam at the see in this very place. She came from a nearby village which was on the mountain so when she was young it was not very usual for them to visit the sea. So all her childhood sea memories were coming from this place. 

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

Her husband was a Cretan Lyra player and I was unlucky that he didn't have the Lyra with him. He had taken it back at home, as most of the pilgrims had gone. They took me inside their hat and made some images. The hat was so interesting inside. You had anything you wanted in a house. Separate bedroom, a small kitchenette for cooking and a table as a dining room. Such a great example to remind you that people just need very simple things which can be enough. A life that could set your spirit free from your needs that enslave your every day life. 

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis

Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani. - Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
Couple pilgrims camped for 15 days outside the church of Panagia Charakiani.
Greece. Crete. Mylopotamos. © George Tatakis
#charakiani #religion #christian #pilgrim #straw #hats #orthodox #bluestarferries

Location

Pilgrims of Panagia Charakiani in Rethymnon

EO Rethimnou Irakliou Geropotamos
Mylopotamos, Crete, Greece

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