A tiny church in Greece’s Peloponnese dating from the 11th or the 12th century is a miracle of nature, and for the faithful, a sign of God’s power.
Religious pilgrims and sightseers alike come to visit Saint Theodora, near the village of Vasta, to admire the seventeen oak trees that sprout from the roof and walls of this tiny chapel without any visual evidence of roots.
Although the building is under considerable pressure due to the weight of the trees and the stresses created by the roots running through its walls, it has survived for hundreds of years without damage being caused to the structure or the trees.
The church was named after Saint Theodora who lived in Vasta.
According to local legend, when the area was raided by bandits, Theodora was determined to help defend her village, in spite of it being unthinkable for a woman to do so.
Not to be deterred, Theodora secretly disguised herself as a male soldier in order to join the defense. Unfortunately, Theodora did not survive, and as she lay dying she uttered the following words:
“Let my body become a church, my blood a river, my hair the forest”.
The villagers who were moved by her bravery and her untimely demise, built a church at the site of her grave. Legend has it that a local river was re-routed to pass directly under the church.
Eventually, trees sprouted from the roof of the church, but the roots are not visible under the roof and neither inside nor outside the church.
Saint Theodora has become an important saint of the Greek Orthodox Church.