Every morning, cheerful and smiling, for 30 years she has traveled 7 kilometers from Niborio, in order to welcome tourists and pilgrims to the holy monastery of Agios Ioannis “Alarga” (Makria) with cinnamon rolls and Greek coffee. Stamatia Anastassi is 73 years old and as she confides, tirelessly and with much joy, she daily takes care of the monastery which is an integral part of her life and the most important place of worship in Halki.

“I have been cleaning and taking care of this place for decades. When I get here everything is different. Here I get a different air” she explains and notes that although she is quite far from the settlement of the island, on the mountain Amali at an altitude of 390m, she never felt alone, “as Agios Ioannis declares his presence, in every way”.

“The Saint appears in the holy monastery very often, he knocks on the doors, the windows, I don’t mind that at all, I have learned” he describes and continues: “Another time when the women came and were cleaning here in the monastery, when they sat at the table outside in the yard, the latch began to click. As if he was thanking us for being there and taking care of his place.”

Inside the holy church, there is the miraculous icon of Agios Ioannis Alargas. Pilgrims from every corner of Greece and abroad, pray to the Saint to help them. And he, as Stamatia Anastasi faithfully asserts, performs his miracle. “Believers come here, mainly women, from all over Greece. They leave offerings to the icon of Saint John, their ring, their bracelet, their chain and ask him for help. The image is miraculous,” says the 73-year-old.

He mentions that recently some people, blinded by the gold and precious objects left by the faithful, entered the monastery and stole the gifts from the wooden case of the icon. “It had a lot of valuable tamas in the image, but a year ago burglars came, entered the temple and took all the tamas and left. They took the icon of the Saint, left it on the church table, opened it from behind and took everything. Among the treats, there was one of my daughter’s, a small gold head. She was facing a serious health problem and it passed, now she brought the tama back to Agios. But when they went to leave the temple, they locked themselves inside, tried to break the wood, with an iron they broke the lock and finally managed to get out and disappear,” she describes clearly upset.

Characteristic of the monastery of Agios Ioannis Alargas, with the small red windows, is a huge cypress tree that covers and protects the temple. “As the old people tell us, it is over a thousand years old and covers almost the entire courtyard. I asked my mother once, how the cypress used to be and she told me that as we came to the island, that’s how it was, it hasn’t changed at all. No one knows his exact age. But Levantes, which blows, tore it down and we support it with metal pillars, so that its branches don’t break,” explains Ms. Anastassi.

In the Monastery of Agios Ioannis Alargas, on August 29, the biggest festival of Chalki takes place, where the Dissection of the Sacred Head of John the Forerunner is commemorated. Residents, tourists and pilgrims sing, enjoy the traditional flavors of the island and dance until the morning, always accompanied by the subtle presence of the Saint, as Stamatia Anastassi says.