THE HOLY ICON
The Holy Icon of the Annunciation of Tinos, the Megalokhari, as it is called by the people, existed on the poor island of Tinos since the first Byzantine years and decorated the ancient Church of St. John the Precursor, which was built after the destruction of the idols and the death of worship of the Olympian gods on the ruins of the pagan temple of Dionysos.
When this Holy Church was destroyed and burned down by the Saracenes in the 10th century A.D., the Icon was buried among the debris of the Church and was thus saved from that terrible catastrophe, which is mentioned by history with special emphasis.
Thus the Icon remained hidden in the ground till its discovery by the pious worker from Phalatas at noon January 30th 1823, after about 850 years. The fact that it remained in the humidity and the earth for so many years without practically any damage, can only be attributed to the wonder-working power and presence of the Holy Virgin.
It portrays the Megalokhari in a room, kneeling with Her head bent in prayer, in front of a small low stand, wearing a golden-yellow-green dress. On the stand is an open book, on which are written the words pronounced by the Virgin herself after the Annunciation by the Angel.
In the background of the small room and on both upper sides one can distinguish the separations of inner windows, while in the centre of the upper part of the Icon, we see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from heaven.
Above Her and to the right we see a rod protruding from the wall, on which is hung a light-coloured curtain. The fine and impervious material of the curtain is folded at the lower part towards the wall.
Opposite to the Virgin and turned towards Her stands the illuminated figure of the Archangel Gabriel, also wearing a golden-yellow-green robe and holding in his left hand the symbolical lilly of purity.
On the back the Icon bears traces of the fire, which as it seems finished up the catastrophic work of the pirates during their terrible attack, from which the Icon was miraculously saved.
The art of the Holy Icon does not belong to the Byzantine age, but is much older, belonging to the early Christian age. Those who studied the origin of the Icon come to the unanimous conclusion that the Megalokhari of Tinos is the work of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke. They even consider it to be one of the first three Icons painted by St. Luke during the life-time of the Holy Virgin of Nazareth. It is also asserted threat the Icon has received its wonder-working power from the Holy Virgin herself, Who being satisfied by the true presentation of the Divine Moment of the Annunciation by St. Luke, blessed the Icon with the following words: ''THE GRACE OF HIM WHO WAS BORNE BY ME BE THROUGH ME WITH IT''. This is the reasonable explanation given by the weak human mind to the infinite greatness of the finding of the Holy Icon by the divine order and indication of the Holy Virgin, as well as to Its wonder-working power, which is an inexhaustible source of consolidation, healing, salvation, peace and love for the Christians.
Like most of the relics of Christendom of the Holy Icon of the Megalokhari of Tinos is covered with plenty of gold and precious stones, which the devoted Christians deposit with piety in front of the Throne of Her Grace, wishing to express in this way their faith and gratefulness to the Mother of the whole world, offering Her the most precious articles that they have acquired by hard work and privation.
When looking at the Icon the pilgrim is filled unwillingly with emotion and awe. He kneels instinctively and prays and asks the Virgin to mediate so that Her Son Christ would give him from heaven strength and consolidation.
By observing closely the Icon one can see the face of the Virgin painted in the right direction and the face of the Archangel Gabriel in the left direction. The sides and the back of the Icon are in a golden frame, while the front surface is covered by the relief gold plate to which are attached jewels, rings, medallions, brooches, ear-rings, precious stones, diamonds, rubles emeralds and real pearls of great value.
A copy of the Icon can be seen in the Vestry next to the Church which we are going to describe below.