The Threshing Floor
The Lyre Player
Legends of Fragokastelo
Virgin Mary of Harakas
who travel from Chania to Heraklion or on the contrary, they
observe a small church enclosed with wall, next to the highway,
2 kilometres after Bali. A sign ęShrine of Virgin Mary of
HarakasĽ makes known its identity. A locust tree in the courtyard
and a few othersin between the bushes that cover the northern
side, give plenty of shade in the summertime. By the southern
side the picture is completed with several olives and locust
Many stop in this oasis. Some for devotion and others for
curiosity. They enter inside the small church, they bend in
front of the icons and later come outside, seat in the terraces,
surveying the sea that unfolds a little below. Some are refreshed
in its water, others quench their thirst from the water of
the tank that exists in their church and later on, rested,
they continue their travel, leaving the church in its loneliness.
loneliness was more intense over the passed years. At that
time, there were no streets, people seldom passed from that
place - no shepherd or wayfarer from Bali to Sises or on the
contrary - and the landscape was really deserted, inaccessible,
isolated. Thus the church took an other substance which with
this busy street today, stopped existing.
On the 15th of each August, the place a round the temple takes
a particular colour, a special liveliness. People, entire
families from the nearby villages, Eksantis, Melidoni, even
Perama, come and under a locust tree, they make huts and stay
there for 15 days. They leave their concerns behind, the vineyards,
the gardens, the daily struggle for living and they come with
the simplicity of their heart to fast for these days, to live
near something that believe, to feel more like people again,
and after all this, strengthened mentally, to go back to their
tradition is kept from the very old times, only that then,
more people were gathered and meditate in the absolute quietness
that prevailed those years.
However even now, each time that gets dark and these extraordinary
pilgrims seat outside of their huts or around the terraces
of the temple and view the sea, you think that noise is unrelated
and indifferent. These show as if they wait for the Byzantine
boat to appear with the sovereign, in order to certify that
they accomplished her command and her request... About this
command will be the story below:
the years that the Byzantine Empire covered the East and West,
that Crete was the most beautiful jewel of the glorified Empire,
a boat, a corvette, with a sovereign saled in the blue Aegean
sea. It passed between the small and big islands, Tenedos,
Mitilini, Chios, Amorgos but it did not stop. Like a dolphin
was tearing the waters apart, sailing to the south, till it
reached the sea of Crete.
When it reached the waters of the island, without hastiness
it began to move coastally. In the big harbours, in the quiet
bights, in the desert seashores it stopped, the sovereign
would come out on the land, enjoy the beauties of the island
and then go back in the boat and continue the travel. The
locals, when they were seeing the boat, they were going down
in the seashore, observing astonished the unknown woman going
ashore, but after a while, they were welcoming and accommodating
Noone knows how long this trip went on. At sometime that the
boat was in Panormos, near the bight of Bali, the sovereign
came out again on the land, went till the place that today
stands the small church and observed the wild place around.
A shepherd saw the woman and informed the villagers and they
went there surprised.
In between she had gone a bit further. A big rock, a "Harakas",
at the south, woke up her curiosity and she went near it.
Without having anything special, it created to her soul an
inexplicable excitement and she began to explore and examine
it from all sides. As she was observing its crevices, she
saw something like a piece of wood that was softly glowing.
She bent and pulled it carefully, and astonished saw that
she was keeping in her hands the picture of the Assumption
of the Virgin Mary!
She cleaned it in deep emotion, kneeled with respect and later
she gave it to the locals that had been gathered near her!
joy of all was indescribable and they decided to celebrate
this special honour that Virgin Mary gave to them. The shepherd
slaughtered a lamb and cooked it in the spit, others brought
bread and wine and all together under the shade of the locust
tree, they ate,
drunk and sung.
decided to fool the woman and fabricated a fake story: They
put the head master of the village layed in bed, playing dead,
and with a sorrowful expression they went down to the beach,
where the boat was anchored and with teardrops they assured
her that a plague hit the region and they were forced to spend
the money to the doctors and that even the head master died.
He was sick for months and finally he died and they were going
to bury him on that day. If she was doubting their words, she
could go to his house that they had his relic and see him...
Later on, the sovereign, pleased from this beautifull gathering,
left the icon to the locals, and a lot of money as well, to
build a church for the Mother Of God.
- Next year i will come back. The church must be ready, in
order to make together the first Mass, she said to them and
bidding farewell them she got in the boat and left.
The boat sailed and the unsophisticated people remained with
the icon and the golden coins.
They went back to their village decided to execute the command
of the woman. Temporarily they left the picture in the church
of their village and they shared the money, under the thought
that they belong to them anyway and all together would help
to the construction of the church.
For the first weeks the discussions we turned around this
subject and one opinion followed the other. They all had something
to propose, because their wish was to be built a temple beautiful
Meanwhile, the news about the picture was heard in the nearby
villages and godly pilgrims came, and the discussions about
the construction of the temple were getting stronger.
But as the weeks were passing by, the pilgrims would become
rarer, the affairs in the village would not stop and the discussions
began to lessen. So did the money that in the end was all
Later the winter came, some said that the picture was safely
protected in their church and they didn't need a new one and
the matter began to be forgotten.
At spring no one remember the sovereign and her order. Only
when the summertime came and in the smoothed waters of the
Cretan sea the boat appearred, they felt their guilt, that
they had not started not even the foundations of the temple
that promised to prepare. And not for that only. From the
money that was left to them for this aim, nothing was left.
It was all spent...
The sovereign was convinced with all that she heard. She spoke
to them with sympathy and comprehension. Once again she left
a lot of golden coins and the same order:
- Next year I will return. The church has to be ready, to make
together the first Mass. Then she entered the boat and left...
The locals rubbed their hands from satisfaction. They made it!
Until the next year they had plenty of time! They ran to tell
the head master.
But when they reached the house and got in the room where his
bed was, they saw him motionless as a statue. He was trully
An indescribable fear seized them, because on the death of the
head master they saw the divine punishment. And for this, without
a delay they went down to the beach and biult the small church
that, renovated, is still saved.
Little by little other buildings were built around it, cells,
storehouses, other auxiliary rooms, olive oils were planted
and all together, even if devastated today, they testify the
life that bloomed at that time and now does not exist...
On the 15th of each August, the residents from the nearby villages
with their priest gather around this church, and under the locust
trees they make huts and stay there for 15 days. The huts compete
in beauty and comfort but the biggest and neatest is that of
the priest that for its manufacture many people help.
They spend the whole day without the pressure of the daily life,
with simplicity and a good heart. They enjoy the sea, they fast,
strengthen themselves mentally and become more humans.
Each night that gets dark, these extraordinary people watch
the fervent Mass and later on they sit outside their huts or
around the stone benches of the church of Virgin Mary and view
the sea. Then you believe that the noise from the cars that
pass by without stop is extraneous and immaterial. These people
show as if they are waiting for the boat to appear with the
sovereign, in order to assure her that they accomplished the
command and her request...