Everybody has come to the realisation that Santorini, romantic sunsets, and blue-domed churches go hand-in-hand. Indeed, the iconic whitewashed chapels that adorn the beautiful Cyclades island are probably the most photographed of all Santorini landmarks. Each bearing its own history, the infamous blue-dome cathedrals and Cycladic-style basilicas have a prominent role in the life of the locals. Even if you don’t view them as an integral part of Santorini, the blue-domed churches are an awe-inspiring sight worth treating your eyes with. To back up this claim, we have five absolutely beautiful and iconic chapels in Santorini that will definitely draw you straight into their irresistible allure.
1. The Orthodox Cathedral
The largest Santorini church is embellished with captivating frescoes, a gracious bell tower, rolling arches, and a striking mosaic on the outside. Almost adjacent to the Catholic Cathedral that’s dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the Orthodox Cathedral was built in 1827 and has survived several invasions during the Byzantine times. Prominently sitting in the laps of Fira, it can be seen from many different parts of the island, offering mind-blowing panoramas of the Santorini volcano and the infamous Caldera.
2. Agios Nikolaos Monastery
Nicely tucked between Imerovigli and Firostefani village, not far from luxury resorts like Kivotos Hotels Santorini, Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) Monastery was the second monastery constructed on the island, back in 1651. Once serving as the private chapel of the Gizi family, it was eventually turned into a monastery until 1815 when the archbishop of Santorini decided to move it to its current location (from inside the Skaros Venetian Castle where the Gizi family lived). Today, Agios Nikolaos Monastery is dedicated to three saints and is also home to an impressive folklore and ecclesiastical museum featuring rare Byzantine icons.
3. Catholic Cathedral
Unlike the typical blue-domed churches we are used to seeing around Santorini, the Catholic Cathedral in Fira stands out with its size, vibrant colours, peach exterior, and ornate bell tower. Once inside, you instantly recognise elements that are common across all Roman Catholic churches, such as the large pillar-framed religious portraits, the orange and cream details, and the lilac-blue dome. The imposing cathedral was severely damaged in the past by the massive earthquake that shook Santorini from the ground up in 1956. However, it managed to regain its old glory some 20 years later.
4. Prophet Elias Monastery
Built nearly 600 metres above sea level, Prophet Elias Monastery occupies a spot at the highest peak of Santorini. Counting three centuries into existence, it is one of the oldest monasteries on the island, between the villages of Kamari and Pyrgos.
Overlooking lush lands full of vineyards, it used to play a pivotal role in the island’s cultural and economic life during the 17th and 18th century. Back then, it was constructed to look like a fortress and even had ownership of a ship that performed trade business with the rest of the Mediterranean.
Nowadays, it shows signs of the massive destruction it experienced during the 1956 earthquake and is home to a highly significant collection of rare Byzantine icons, hand-written books, and ecclesiastical items. A visit you definitely need to make, even if you are here just for the spellbinding views of the entire island.
5. Panagia Episkopi Church
At first, the 11th-century church at Mesa Gonia was the Orthodox Metropolis in Santorini before it became a property of the Catholics. Eventually, it returned to the Orthodox Christians, who even managed to revive it after the devastating earthquake that hit the island. The church is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is one of the most important Byzantine chapels in Santorini, holding many holy icons dating to the 1200s and 1300s. Once here, you can’t help but feel enticed by the charming frescoes, the faded front, and the orange tile roof.
The Most Quintessential Blue-Dome Santorini Church
Now, if you are wondering which blue-dome church is the one posing in almost every postcard of Santorini worldwide, that would be the three-bell Agioi Theodoroi Church in the Santorini Caldera and the village of Firostefani. Note that although you can get there and soak up the hypnotic views of the Aegean Sea, the inside of the church is not always accessible to the public. Should you happen to visit the church at a time open to the public, do have a look at the centuries-old icon hosted inside.
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