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Prophet Elias Monastery

Prophet Elias Monastery (9)

If you travel through Santorini, you'll quickly realise that there are many churches scattered throughout the island. A huge number. There are more than 500 and most feature the classic Byzantine style, with white walls, blue domes and a Greek cross that dominates the central dome.

Of all the religious buildings on the island, one stands out head and shoulders above the rest. This is the Prophet Elias Monastery, an Orthodox monastery built in 1712, located at the highest point on Santorini, about 560 metres above sea level, near the village of Pyrgos.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the monastery played a key role in the economic and cultural development of Santorini, and came to have its own ship, which it used to trade with the rest of the Aegean and the Mediterranean. As a side note, a school was established in the monastery in the early nineteenth century to teach Greek language and literature. Of course, there's nothing unusual about teaching Greek in Greece, but this was a totally clandestine school, since the island was under Turkish occupation.

Unfortunately, after the second half of the same century, the monastery's luck changed for the worse and it fell into oblivion. In addition, the structure was severely affected by the earthquake of 1956.

From the outside, it is austere, like a fortress. Once inside, there are clues to the wealth of times gone by: valuable icons and works of art, such as the iconostasis of carved and gilded wood of the katholikon or main church. In addition, the monastery houses a small, charming museum of sacred and popular art that contains Byzantine documents and holy garments, as well as exhibitions on shoe, candle and wine making.

Outside there is an excellent vantage point with fantastic views of the island, from one end to the other, and some simply incredible sunsets. So the trip to the top of the hill must be doubly spectacular!

It's a pity, but also understandable, that this place was chosen by the army to house a military base. We therefore advise you not to take pictures of this part of the island, since it can cause you problems. Just enjoy the location and the views. According to locals, it's possible to glimpse Crete on a very clear day.

Furthermore, if you want to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Thira, it's worth knowing that there's a path that takes you there from here.

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