Thousands of believers have been flocking to the Metropolitan Church of Agioi Anargyroi in the suburb of Athens, Nea Ionia from Friday to worship the Virgin Mary's belt, or girdle, known as the Agia Zoni.
Ecclesiastical tradition considers that it is the only surviving relic of the Virgin Mary from her life on earth.
The Agia Zoni will remain in the Church of Agii Anargyri for another week.
According to tradition, the Agia Zoni is made of camel hair and after the Virgin Mar's ascension she gave it to Apostle Thomas. The belt is kept at the Vatopedi Monastery, on Mount Athos (also known as the Holy Mountain, and The Garden of the Virgin) and the last time it left the monastery was in 2011 when it was moved to Russia where millions of believers worshiped it along with Vladimir Putin.
The relocation of the Agia Zoni to Constantinople took place during the years of Emperor Arkadios who deposited it in a magnificent reliquary called "Agia Soros."
A few years later, the daughter of Arkadios, Empress Pulcheria, raised the brilliant temple of Halkopratia and deposited the Agia Zoni there. The Empress personally decorated it with golden thread.
In the next century, unknown when and in what way, the Agia Zoni was moved to Zila, Cappadocia. It was again brought to Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Justinian I (527-565). His successor, Justin II and his wife, Sofia, refurbished the Temple of Halkopratia and built a chapel of Agia Soros.
After the fall of the city to the crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, in 1204, some pieces were grabbed and transported to the West. Fortunately, everything was not lost. It is certain that part of the belt remained in Constantinople and after its liberation in 1261 by Michael II Palaiologus it was kept in the Temple of Blacherna.
The testimony of an anonymous Russian pilgrim to Constantinople between 1424-1453 is the last reference concerning the existence of the Agia Zoni in the Byzantine capital. It is unknown what happened after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The largest part of the belt which is preserved today is kept in the Vatopedi Monastery.
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