Our Lady of the Myrtles

The Miraculous Holy Icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa

On September 24, 40 days after the Dormition of Virgin Mary, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Panagia Myrtidiotissa, the holy icon of Our Lady on Kythera that, according to legend, has miraculous properties.

Panagia Myrtidiotissa means Our Lady of the Myrtle — the name comes from Greek Orthodox traditions which speak of a holy icon that was found by a shepherd in a myrtle bush. Virgin Mary appeared to the shepherd 40 days after her Dormition and told him to search for the icon and that every time he would look for it, he would find it in the same place. As the shepherd kneeled to pray, he turned around and found it inside the myrtle and took it home.

The next day, when the shepherd woke up, the holy icon was missing. He went back to the myrtle and found it there. He took it home and the same thing happened the next day. So the man realized that he should leave the holy icon where he found it, inside the myrtle bush, and that it should not be removed again.

According to tradition, the icon was found in 1160, or in the 15th century. The legend was incorporated on the icon itself, in its lower part, by artist Nikolaos Theophilos in 1837. The holy icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa is treasured by Kythera residents, Greek Orthodox Christians across the country and diaspora Greeks as well.