Miraculous Icon of Saint Nicholas
Agios Nikolaos of Spata, Greece, mid-1800s—
The icon dates from 1839 and because of the many miracles of Saint Nicholas the little village of Spata came to be known in 1957 as Agios Nikolaos of Spata.
There are two stories about the discovery of the miraculous Saint Nicholas icon. The first one says that a shepherd saw his goat with a wet beard, though there wasn't drinking water in the area. He followed the goat and eventually came to a spring. There was a cave above the spring with the icon of Saint Nicholas. The shepherd excitedly ran to the village of Spata and the villagers followed him to the spring. They took the icon back to the village and the next day it would be back at the spring. This happened repeatedly each day they took the icon to the village.
The second story has the shepherds with their sheep one night. The sheep in the sheepfold were suddenly frightened and scattered. Afraid there was a wolf or other predator, the shepherds called their dogs. They found a bright light in the sky like a star and it went from west to east until it reached another mountain named Ailia. When the shepherds reported this to the villagers, many were skeptical. However, when they went the next night, they saw the same thing. And the next night, too. So they went to investigate by clearing a path through the forest to the place where the light burned out each night. At last they came to a spring, and then a tiny little one-person house that was falling apart. Inside they found the Saint Nicholas icon. They took it to the village and each day they would again find it next to the spring.
The icon is old and may have been hidden in the forest during the Iconoclastic time and forgotten.
The villagers decided that Saint Nicholas was telling them where to build a chapel; later it was replaced by a church. It is now the site of the St. Nicholas Monastery. Saint Nicholas' two feast days are days of pilgrimage; about 15,000 people come for the May festival. They bring offerings of oil, candles, and other things, as a vow to Saint Nicholas, as they seek his aid for whatever problem they have. The icon is near the right choir of the nave, at about a small child's level, so most people kneel to venerate the icon.
Many miracles have been attributed to Saint Nicholas at this shrine. Hundreds of healings and reports of visions of Saint Nicholas, particularly for those who've repented. Reports include the paralyzed walking, the blind seeing, and life-threatening illnesses being erased.
Saint Nicholas saved the monastery and surrounding villages from disaster in 1961 when a forest fire threatened to burn them down, but a strong wind came causing it to change direction before it hit the monastery.
One of the most unusual wonders, reported by hundreds of witnesses, is that animals—horses, goats, and calves—enter the church, approach the miraculous icon of Saint Nicholas, kneel in front of the icon, and some even venerate the icon.
Agios Nikolaos of Spata, Wikipedia
"The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Spata," by John Sandiopoulos, Orthodox Christianity Then and Now
"Ten Miracle-Working Icons of Saint Nicholas," A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons