With over 250 Santorini churches on the tiny Greek Island you cannot turn round without viewing yet another pretty little church just waiting to be photographed. Santorini and beautiful white washed blue domed churches are synonymous with each other.
Quite a few of the beautiful churches in Santorini are used as wedding locations for the many weddings conducted on this romantic isle.
For more on planning your special day see our Weddings in Santorini section for helpful advice and information.
As with other Greek Islands and mainland Greece the Church plays a significant role in the lives of the Greek people. The Greek Orthodox Church dominates the many cultural traditions, rituals and festivals that impact upon the daily lives of the Greeks.
On Santorini religious events, festivals, feast days and rituals punctuate the cycle of the year. Easter is the most significant event and has many traditions attached to it. From painting eggs red, burning an effigy of Judas, baking special Easter bread and cakes to observing religious vigils and church ceremonies and spit roasting lambs on Easter Sunday.
Easter is always a special and significant time in Greece and the Greek Islands.
Greek Easter does not always fall on the same date as western Easter because the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar when calculating Easter and not the Gregorian.
The chart below outlines the forthcoming Greek Easter Sunday dates:
|Year||Greek Easter Sunday|
Other than the big celebrations and feasting attached to Easter other religious events are the various festivals and feast days (panighyri) of the individual saints the Santorini churches are dedicated to.
For example Agios Ioannis (Saint John), the patron saint of the village of Monolithos, has his feast day on the 24th July, when all the villagers honour their saint by attending the church for a service.
The locals take special bread to be blessed by the priest that is later distributed to the entire congregation. After the service the villagers form a procession and walk along parading church icons and banners on the feast day. The following evening a feast with plenty of delicious food and Santorini wine, traditional Greek dancing and music are played well into the early hours. Visitors are made very welcome.
|May 5th||Messaria||Agia Irini|
|May 12th||Akrotiri||Agios Epiphanios|
|May 29th||Akrotiri||Agia Theodosia|
|May 29th||Fira||Agia Theodosia|
|July 1st||Megalochori||Agios Anargyros|
|July 9th||Kamari||Agios Pagkratios|
|July 20th||Fira||Prophet Ilias|
|July 24th||Monolithos||Agios Ioannis|
|August 6th||Emporio||Metamorphosis of Christ|
|August 6th||Akrotiri||Metamorphosis of Christ|
|August 15th||Akrotiri||Dormition of Panagia|
|August 15th||Megalochori||Dormition of Panagia|
|August 15th||Karterados||Panagia Kokkini|
|August 15th||Exo Gonia||Panagia Episkopi|
|August 29th||Imerovigli||Agios Ioannis|
|August 29th||Perissa||Agios Ioannis|
|September 8th||Perissa||Panagia Katefiani|
|September 14th||Perissa||Timios Stavros|
|September 21st||Thirassia||Panagia Giatrissa|
|September 24th||Kamari||Panagia Mirtidiotissa|
|October 22nd||Emporio||Agios Averkios|
|October 26th||Messaria||Agios Dimitrios|
Even the very name of Santorini has its roots in religion. The Crusaders reputedly gave the name of Santorini to the island known as Thira after the church of Ayia Irini (Saint Irene).
The names given to children in Santorini and elsewhere in Greece also have their roots in religion. Most children are named after a Saint. Each of the Greek Islands and areas of mainland Greece have a patron saint, and people living in that area often name a child after its patron saint. Each saint has a special feast day. A person's name day is the feast day of the saint after which they were named.
The patron saint of Santorini is of course Saint Irene or Agia Irini, so you'll find a lot of the women and girls named Irini on Santorini.
The iconic Santorini symbol of the Oia view and the blue domed churches are perhaps the most photographed of all the Santorini churches.
Whenever and wherever you visit on this Greek Island you're sure to stumble across many pretty Santorini churches holding church services, celebrating their feast day or conducting wedding ceremonies.
Some Santorini churches are very large and grand cathedrals while others are simple, tiny chapels. All are beautiful. There's even a small chapel in the vineyard of one of the Santorini Wineries on the island.
As a mark of respect visitors are expected to dress modestly when visiting Santorini churches, monasteries and cathedrals on this and other Greek Islands. Men should wear shirts and long trousers and women should ensure their shoulders and knees are covered. Believe it or not we've seen insensitive tourists sporting little more than beach wear when visiting the churches in Santorini. We know the churches in Santorini are tourist attractions but they are also places of worship and the devout Greek Orthodox islanders treat them with reverence and respect.
If you get chance try to explore some of the monasteries, cathedrals and Santorini churches.
The Catholic Cathedral in Fira is simply beautiful. It was rebuilt along with its bell tower after the 1956 earthquake and is considered one of the most stunning of the many Santorini churches. It is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It's peach and pale blue colouring looks wonderful in the bright sunshine of a Santorini summer day.
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral also in Fira was built in 1827 but was damaged by the 1956 earthquake. It has since been rebuilt and is pure white with many attractive arches. It also has an impressive bell tower and ornate mosaic flooring. The interior is decorated by striking frescoes that were painted by a local artist named Christoforos Assimis.
You'll find the nunnery of Agios Nikolaos between the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli. It was built in 1651 and is dedicated to Agios Panteleimon, Agios Nikolaos and Zoodochos Pigi (life giving spring). The nunnery is home to Greek Orthodox nuns. It is the only Greek Orthodox convent in Santorini.
For one of the best views from Santorini visit the highest point of the island at Pyrgos. Here you'll find the monastery of the Prophet Elias. It was built in 1711 and commands a spectacular panoramic view. It has a small museum displaying religious icons and Byzantine manuscripts. It has colourful painted frescos and religious gold icons decorating the walls and ceilings.
The beautiful Byzantine church of Panagia Episkopi is in the village of Episkopi Gonia also known as Mesa Gonia. It is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture anywhere in the world and has survived numerous invasions and earthquakes. It was built in the 1115, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and houses the valuable icon of Panagia Glikofilousa (sweet kissing virgin). The religious feast day is celebrated on the 15th of August.
A former temple and ancient sacred site of the 3rd century B.C. stands at the village of Emporio. The pure grey marble Doric style square temple to the goddess Vasileia was converted to a Christian church in the 4th century. It was named 'Marmaritis' (marble) after the grey marble of its exterior walls and from the Saint’s marble icon contained within.
There are many more churches throughout the whole of Santorini. Some say there as many Santorini churches as there are days of the year!
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