The church of Panagia Lagouvarda or Fidoussa (of the snakes) is located in the mountainside village of Markopoulo around 30km from Argostoli. The church is renowned throughout the Orthodox world for the icon which depicts the Virgin Mary with small snakes. “Panagia Fidoussa” is the name given to the image – Virgin of the Snakes – as these small snakes visit annually between 6th and 15th of August, and are collected up for the parishioners to touch, lay on their head and chests. The snakes are kept in containers so that the vast numbers of visitors to the church can see them. The snakes have small crosses on their heads and are docile creatures that can be picked up.

The appearance of the snakes has occurred every year apart from two – the year of the German occupation (1940) and the year of the devastating earthquake (1953) – and so have become synonymous with good luck.  Some say they appear at the temple as it is on their migratory route whilst others believe that the snakes are a miraculous phenomenon and the submission of the snakes to the grace of the Virgin Mary is a miracle. Legend decrees that hundreds of years ago the nuns who lived on the site were terrorised by marauding pirates and they asked the Virgin Mary for protection, she responded and when the pirates reached the temple they were met by hundreds of hissing snakes and ran away!

Read about our visit to the church of Panagia Lagouvarda on August 15th