Oh dear Virgin Mary, little chapel
Years now I’ve known you, since I was a child.
From Merhia I would set out in a little boat
To come here to you to light a candle.
On the eleventh of Orniahti celebrates our church
In the cave we sit and eat our foods.
In just a few lines Michalis Kounenis from Mykonos, known as Babelis, the top bagpipe player of the Cyclades, paints a loving picture of the feast of Tragonisi.
The church of the Virgin Mary’s feast day falls on that of Saints Barnabas and Bartholomew, the 11th of June. Departing from Kalafatis, in half an hour you arrive at a little inlet, somewhat protected from the north wind. Tall cliffs surround you, inaccessible shores, no sign of a pier.
After the craft tie up onto the rocks, one next to the other, unloading begins and the first hundred metres are not the easiest. Sheer slopes, sharp rocks, slippery pebbles, minimal progress. After half an hour’s walk, the chapel appears, a tiny white building perched on a red boulder between two hanging caper bushes, the only hint of greenery on the island. The priest and chanters barely fit inside and the entire flock stands outside. The chanting echoes through the ravine: “The rich went bankrupt and hungry…”.
After the liturgy you walk down several metres and arrive at a cave-like hollow amid the red rocks where benches are set up for the eating, drinking and merry making.
The visitors – no woman among them this time – take out their offerings, each having brought their own. Thus, along with the kopanisti, louza, sausages, quail, all kinds of meatballs and pies, and boiled goat, there are also less common foods, such as local ‘sushi’ made of red mullet, tuna or ray or fish roe browned in butter with fried sage leaves! The festivities start, Babelis has his bagpipe and the fun begins:
Today is not like other days
It’s the Virgin Mary’s feast day and the joys are great