The Leper Colony of Spinalonga (Crete)

Very often, you hear people talk about God’s anger, or that God is angry with someone. In Spinalonga, however, people felt that the exact opposite occured. The people were angry with God. One priest from Gerapetra dared to visit them and held liturgy at St. Panteleimon, an old church on the island of Spinalonga, which was wearing away, like the inhabitants of the island. They say that no one came to the first liturgy. The lepers stubbornly listened to the psalmody from their cells, sometimes drowning it out with their groans and sometimes with their curses. However, the priest went back. For his second liturgy, one of the lepers boldly entered the church: “Priest, I’ll come to liturgy, under this condition: You will give me communion. If your God is so almighty, you will consume everything in the cup as priests do, and you will not fear my leprosy.

The priest nodded condescendingly. In the nearby cells, people heard their conversation, and people gathered around one side of the church where there was a crack in the wall where they could see what the priest would do. They waited until liturgy was over and saw the priest kneeling with compunction and tears at the altar and consuming the Holy Gifts.

A month went by. The lepers waited for him. They expected him to come back as a patient and not as a priest.

But the priest returned in full health and with rosy cheeks. He rang the bell of the little chapel. For more than ten years, Spinalonga had this priest. The lepers restored the church by themselves, and at the same time they restored their faith. They took communion often, and at the end of liturgy, they always looked at the priest sideways to make sure that “the miracle of Spinalonga” would happen again and again.



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