The Feast of St Thomas

WE’D BEEN invited to see the church procession at the Achillion Palace by Fedon and Christina who run the apartments because their son was playing the euphonium in the Milea village band. The procession marked the feast day of Doubting Thomas.

The word iconic tends to get overused so it was interesting to see icons, the genuine item, being used in this Greek Orthodox ceremony. Two paintings formed the centre piece of the procession. Flag and banner bearers led the way followed by the village band, a  women’s choir (singing ‘A capella’ which means in the manner of the church, unaccompanied by music in the Greek Orthodox tradition), the priest and his attentdants, incense censers, cross bearers and others with bronze starburst or sun emblems on poles (heavy things to carry in the midday heat for a couple of miles) followed by what appeared to be centuries old iconic paintings of the Virgin and the saints, the second of which was further protected by a large canopy supported by polebearers.

There was a short service with hymns, prayers and a reading before the procession entered the grounds of the Achillion and another back in the village.

At the end of the ceremony, as the black-suited church elders kissed the silver cover of the priest’s Bible, Fedon explained; ‘They’re praying for the politicians who are going to take over Greece!’

We followed the procession down narrow streets – so narrow that they had to dismantle the canopy and walk single file through one alley – back down to the church.

The bells were ringing; a man had climbed a ladder to the bell tower and he was alternately ringing the bells, using straps hanging from their clappers.

Trying to use the free tourist map as a walking map didn’t work out for us as we tried to find a way across the hill from the Achillion Palace to Benitses. We found ourselves on a crag, frustratingly close, high above the rooftops of the village but with no path down. We had to retrace our steps and unfortunately by then we’d almost finished our bottle of water. But the walk did work out well for wildlife. We spotted some orchids which we came back to draw another day and on the top of the crag I disturbed an Agama, a stocky lizard with spiky scales. We got a better view of two of on the last full day of our holiday on a little crag by the road through Milia. One of those had a bright yellow patch beneath its chin.

When we finally retraced our steps back to the sea front at Benitses we got a good view of a Yellow-legged Gull, its yellow legs showing up well as it stood on the breakwater by the harbour.

The Green Sandpiper probing along the water’s edge attracted Barbara’s attention with its wagtail-like bobbing and the white on its rump.

Lemons at Andromaches: ‘help yourself if you need one!’ said Christina.

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