Church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda
In the place of a former monastery, we can find the Church of the Virgin Mary Lagouvarda (Virgin Mary of the snakes) wrapped in legends and mystery. It is located in the village of Markopoulous in the north-east of Cephalonia. If you don´t like snakes though, you should really avoid the place at least during August. According to a legend, the nuns there were praying so intensely to the Virgin Mary when the monastery was attacted until snakes came to help them. And sakes actually appear in the place regularly in the same time of the year, which is at the beginning of August. One version of the legend even says that it were the nuns themselves who transformed into snakes, returning to the sacred place. Despite being completely harm less, those reptiles can obviously repel some of the visitors. The locals consider them to be a symbol of happiness though and celebrate their return with music and dance.
Every year on August 15 during the celebrations of the Virgin Mary, service is held in the church, during which the believers are put a snake on their body which is supposed to have healing effects and bring good luck. It is a very interesting spectacle (the snake is baby one, twenty centimetres long). On this day, you will see many stands selling religious objects but also mand-made products, home-made honey or olive oil near the church.
The already mentioned snakes appear in the church every year except for 1953 when the island was hit by a devastating earthquake, and the year the the World War II started, when not a single snake was seen in the place.