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Insiders’ Travel Tips

A miraculous church in the Guinness World Records Book



The lovely church of Agia Theodora in Arcadia, Peloponnese entered the Guinness World Records Book as the “miraculous chapel” where, according to religious tradition,  Agia Theodora was executed. It is a church of particular interest, as 17 trees that reach a height of 20 meters pop out of the roof. The roots of trees are not that visible and only the trunks and branches that pass through the walls and roof can be distinguished.


The church of Agia Theodora is located near the village of Vasta, 30 km from Megalopolis in Arcadia. Surrounded from a dense forest of oaks and running waters, the church stands near a river canyon. According to religious tradition, the number of trees is the exact number of the age that Agia Theodora died. Legend has it that her blood became a river, and her hair became the trees, at the place where her execution happened. Many argue that the phenomenon has not a reasonable explanation, as the weight of the trees could have demolish the small chapel. The church continues to stand up in the passage of time and the creek continues to give life to the trees.


In the summer of 1996, the Department of Restoration of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments asked the Geophysical Laboratory of the University of Patras, to explore a potential static problem. That was the time when a pioneering control tomography georadar and electric tomography took place. The results showed that the root system of trees has penetrated the stone construction of walls, and creating gaps. Through these, the trees reach the ground, creating a grid holding the building upright. Thereafter, a restoration project (1998-1999) took place in order to clean the masonry without grouting, so that the roots of trees would not dry.The church of Agia Theodora is Byzantine, and was erected in the 12th century AD to honor Saint Theodora who was executed in the region. It has only four meters wide and five meters long and a religious celebration takes place every year on September 11.


For the life and the death of Agia Theodora, two stories have been reported. According to the first version, Agia Theodora was the daughter of Emperor Constantine, of the Macedonian dynasty, who was reigned like a man for a time, until Michael F. Martial succeeded her. Then, he claimed that Theodora became ill and died, and many suspected that he murdered and buried her at the exact location of the church. According to the second version, Theodora’ origin was from Vasta village, Arcadia and was the eldest child of a poor family. At that time, one man from each family had to participate in the army, but her father was ill and the family too poor to hire a mercenary to take his place. For this reason, Theodora decided to impersonate a man and take part from the family of the military corps of the village. Theodora was not lacking in anything from other soldiers. She was brave and knew how to battle. Thereafter, a girl believing that she is a man fell in love with her. Theodora tried to turn her away, but then the young girl decided to take revenge. She slept with another soldier, became pregnant and claimed the army commander that the child was that of Theodora’s. Theodora refused to marry her, and she was sentenced to death as she dishonored her.


Until the last moment, Theodora refused to reveal the big secret and was eventually killed at the point where the church stands today. According to tradition, her last words were: “Lord, may my years become trees and my blood become water.”