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Legends of Crete

(leftad)

: The Threshing Floor
: Drosoulites
: The Lyre Player
: Legends of Fragokastelo

: Virgin Mary of Harakas

Those 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 trees.
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.
This 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 villages...
This 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:

In 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 her.
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!

The 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.
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 and unique.
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 spent.
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...

They 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...
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 dead!
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...


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