On a recent trip, I visited a friend and colleague, Michael Samuels, on the island of Tinos in the Greek Mediteranean. Michael’s house is poised for flight—precipitously above a steep, terraced valley flowing down to the blue water. He built the house as a temple: donkeys carried 80 tons of sand and cement down 144 stone stairs to the site. Stones came from the land.
From Michael’s balcony, I counted 13 Venetian dovecotes. Six hundred are scattered around the island of Tinos in 41 villages. Doves are prized for meat, eggs, and fertilizer. Dovecotes must be built near water and cultivated areas—out of the wind so that baby doves can fly. They are works of art, embroidered with stone carvings. Venetians ruled Tinos for five century, from the fall of Constantinople in 1204 until 1715. Ottoman Turks ruled until 1821.
Then, Tinos joined the Greek war of independence. Greek flags flutter everywhere. The church, Panagia Evangelistria, is the great Marian pilgrimage site in Greece—like Lourdes in France or Fatima in Portugal. The church attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, many crawling on their hands and knees up the long avenue to the shrine. Tradition says the Virgin told St. Pelagia where a sacred icon was buried. The icon is now in the church. In a village above Michael’s house stands the monastery where the saint had her vision.
Michael lived in Bolinas for many years. He continues to visit for several months each year. He and his sister, Linda, also a Bolinas resident, co-hosted the pioneering healing arts conferences we held at Commonweal 20 years ago. Michael co-hosted a third healing arts gathering at Commonweal this year.
Michael senses that sacred sites are alive, and he is writing a book about Delos fusing what is known from archeology with what he and a few others intuit about the island.
One such living sanctuary on Tinos belongs to the sea god, Poseidon, and his wife, the sea nymph Amphitrite, both worshipped as physicians. The temple dates from the 4th century BC. Purification at the temple of Poseidon and Amphitrite was a precursor in ancient times for making the short journey from Tinos to Delos, the most sacred island in ancient Greece. I laid on the stone ruins of the healing center.