A small 11th or 12th-century church in Peloponnese, Greece, is a miracle of nature and, to believers, a symbol of the power of God.
Religious pilgrims and visitors alike come to visit Sant Theodora near the village of Vasta, 30 km from the town of Megalopoli in Arcadia, to admire the seventeen oak trees growing from the ceiling and walls of this small chapel without a view.
Although the building is under considerable pressure due to the weight of the trees and the stresses created by the roots running through its walls, it has survived for hundreds of years without causing damage to the structure or the trees.
The church was named after Saint Theodora, who lived in Vasta. According to local legend, when bandits raided the area, Theodora was determined to help defend her village, even though it was unthinkable for a woman to do so.
Theodora secretly disguised herself as a male soldier to join the defense, not to be deterred. Unfortunately, Theodora did not survive, and as she lay dying, she uttered the following words:
“Let my body become a church, blood a river, hair the forest.”
The villagers, who were moved by her bravery and untimely demise, built a church at her gravesite. Legend has it that a local river was re-routed to pass directly under the church.
Eventually, trees sprouted from the church’s roof, but the roots were not visible under the roof and neither inside nor outside the church.
Saint Theodora has become an essential saint of the Greek Orthodox Church.