Agia Theodora Church miraculously supports several trees growing on top of it, despite the weight.
There are no root formations in the Church, except hair-thin mysteriously unnatural roots inside the walls, which reach beneath the building for water.
Legend of Agia Theodora
The church is called miraculous because 17 oak trees with a height of 30 meters grow through the roof of the stone chapel, while there are no traces of tree roots. The trees appear to be growing right out of the tiled roof.
The local Greek legend to explain the phenomenon is that a pious young girl from a nearby village in Arcadia or Messenia wanted to become a nun and therefore decided to join a monastery. She thought she could accomplish more like a monk and that’s why she disguised herself as a boy, changed her name to Theodoros and joined the monks in a male monastic community in Arcadia.
Theodora was a very dedicated “monk”, and they assigned her important missions. During a serious famine in the area, she was sent to the homes of Christians to help or to collect money.
This is when a woman fell in love with “him”. Theodora obviously didn’t respond to the woman’s love and that’s when “he” was accused of leaving her pregnant.
For reasons unknown, Theodora didn’t expose her real gender. Instead, she was taken to Vasta by the authorities where she was beheaded.
Just before her execution, she had prayed to God to turn her hair into trees, her blood into a river to water the trees, and her body into a temple.
Greek Temple in honor of Agia Theodora
The authorities who were shocked when they discovered that the beheaded person was actually a woman and thus had been accused wrongfully, decided to build a chapel in honour of her.
Just when it was built in the 10th century, trees started to grow out of its roof and a small river was formed at the foot of the chapel.
Looking at the chapel it’s indeed a miracle that the walls of the chapel have been able to withstand the weight and the growth of the trees through them for over a thousand years. Even experts don’t have an explanation for this.
The weight of the trees on the roof is estimated to be around nine tons. This is four times the weight that would normally be tolerated by a roof like the one of the little church. Imagine how much the roof has to endure during stormy weather, snow and rain!
The Agia Theodora Church is very small and sober on the inside. We went inside to light a candle, and to take a look at the faded frescoes and some icons.
Road Trip Peloponnese
The little church is indeed very special, and the legend makes it even more interesting. Every year it attracts thousands of Greek orthodox pilgrims and some foreign tourists.
Directions to Agia Theodora Vasta
If you are coming from Kalamata or east of, then take the Athens road from Kalamata (approx 30km from the centre), turn off left, signposted Kyparissia, for 5 km, then turn off for Diavolitsi at Zevgolatio.
If you are coming from the west of Kalamata you would head north from the Messini roundabout, through Valyra & Meligala to Diavolitsi. As you enter Diavolitsi there is a crossroads, turn right (I believe it may be signposted for Ag Theodora) & go through the villages of Parapousi, Desilas, Karnasi & Dasachori, Agia Theodora is not far from there. As you climb through these villages & back down the other side do take some time for the scenery!
Once you have visited Ag Theodora continue on to Vasta then head for Megalopoli. From there it is one road to Karitena, turn right there to Stemnitsa, then Dimitsana.
The whole route could be driven in about 3 hrs