St George the Mandilas, the origins of a 300 years old Meteora tradition
photos source: infotouristmeteora.gr
Saint George was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army. His father was the Greek Gerondios from Cappadocia Asia Minor and his mother was the Greek Polychronia from the city Lyda. Lyda was a Greek city from the times of the conquest of Alexander the Great (333 BC), now in Israel. He became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. He is venerated as a Christian martyr.
There are many different customs around Greece honoring Saint George’s memory, but only one that we know of to involve colorful head scarfs, climbing and dancing on the cliffs very edge all at the same time. It takes place on an old ruined monastery dedicated to Saint that was build inside a cave some 40 meters above ground on the north side of a Meteora rock.
There is an old story circulating from mouth to mouth mainly in Kastraki village about the origins of the custom.
In the early 17th century Meteora area like the rest of the Thessaly and most of Greece was under the Ottoman rule. A Muslim landowner and his wife were cutting down some trees next to Saint George’s hermitage. While the Muslim man was chopping down the woods he had an awful accident. The tree he was cutting down fell over him and as a consequence he was badly wounded. His wife immediately upon realizing her husband’s accident she rushed to help him, but she couldn’t do much.
The man lay there on the ground with his wife crying over him when people from the nearby village of Kastraki heard the hopeless screams for help of the injured man’s wife, and so they rushed there to check out what exactly has happened.
Upon seeing the seriously wounded man on the ground they immediately realized that the Muslim man had slim chances to win the day. So all they could do was to advice his wife to turn to Saint George and prey on him for help…
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