The Monastery of Prophet Elias possesses quite a few metochia (dependency churches), most of which are located in Thera, and some of them in Anafe.
Since the foundation of the Monastery, along with the transfer of estates, came the transfer of private churches and chapels. This dedication was made as a commemoration of parents, brothers or relatives, and for the continuous commemoration of the dedicator in every Holy Mass of the Monastery. Apart from the maintenance of the metochia and the chapels, the Monastery also maintained for almost 100 years vicars in its monastic parishes, who performed the Holy Mass in the chapels once a week.
The metochia and chapels that were transferred to the Monastery throughout its history are the following:
Hagios Georgios (St. George)
It is a single-aisled basilica, adjacent to the north side of the church of the Esodia Theotokou (Presentation of the Virgin). It was built by the hierodeacon Parthenios Sigalas and was dedicated to the Monastery in 1725. According to the relevant dedicatory letter there had to be “three masses per week and a vicar at all times”.
One of the obligations that the Monastery undertook regarding the metochi was to “light an inextinguishable candle in front of the Icon, to burn a candle during the week of prayers, on the Friday or Sunday afternoon, by the vicar on duty.”
These rules lasted until 1935. From 1735 until 1830 it operated as a convent for nuns (a building complex with cells is preserved to this day). According to the relevant Episcopal Letter by Zacharias Gyzis (8 February 1735), the residents of Pyrgos decided to “build a religious Monastery at the Christians’ expense …in the name of the glorious great martyr Hagios Georgios”. The Monastery was coenobitic, and the order commanded that “the nuns were not allowed to exit the door, nor anyone else to enter, neither abbot, nor priest-monk, nor clergy, nor woman, nor child, not even the archpriest himself, unless in the case of an emergency”.
The performance of a mass stopped in 1839, when the Monastery stopped operating because of a decree by Otto (no.30). The nuns lived from then on in the Monastery of Hagios Nickolaos, located at a small distance from Fera.
After the earthquakes of 1856, the surviving monastic complex was practically ruined, while the earthquakes of 1956 brought about additional damage.
Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity)
A big church of the cross-in-square contracted type. It is located inside Kasteli. It used to be connected on the northern side with the monks’ cells, before they were transferred to the Monastery of the Prophet Elias. According to Denaxas, a preserved document of 1742 mentions Gabriel Belonias, the owner of Prophet Elias’ Monastery, as the founder of this church. According to this endowment document “…Anna Petrou, the wife of the priest Sigalas, gave … [to the Monastery] … for the building of this church”. The family of the priest donated 500 Spanish realia for the erection of this church.
The Monastery’s obligations towards this church were the same as with the church of Hagios Georgios, and were preserved until 1856.
The church was ruined after the earthquake of 1956. During the 80s it was reconstructed with funds from the people of Pyrgos. Today, the church hosts a collection of icons and treasures supervised by the Ministry of Culture.
Hagia Aikaterini (St. Katherine)
On the southwest side of the hill, inside the village but outside Kastelli, we find the chapel of Hag. Aikaterini, built in the type of a single-aisled barrel-vaulted basilica. Denaxas dates it to 1660. It was dedicated to the Monastery by Marinos Gavallas and his wife Aikaterini. Apart from the church, they also transferred two vineyards close to Pyrgos, as well as all the ecclesiastical vessels and books. On the northern side, close to the iconostasis, parts of murals have been revealed.
Metamorphosis (Transfiguration) of the Saviour
It is located outside Kastelli, practically at the center of the region Pyrgos. Its architectural type is difficult to be recognized. The building’s ground floor can be characterized as a three-aisled basilica, while on the first floor it bears the typology of a cross-in-square with dome. There is a U-shaped gallery that extends over the side aisles of the ground floor, as well as over the narthex. In 1725 the Superior of the Monastery of Hagios Ioannis of Patmos Athanasios Mazaris, together with the hierodeacon Parthenios Sigalas, dedicated the church to the Monastery, along with two estates, after a patriarchal sigillion. From a former sigillion we learn that the church of that time, dedicated by Theologina Sigala, was too small and belonged to the dean Ioannis Mazaris, who lived in a residence next to it. The vicar of the church was the future owner of the Monastery Gabriel Belonias. Hagios Nickolaos is a chapel of this church. This church was abandoned by the Monastery, in order for it to be used as a parish church, taking in return some estates in Pyrgos and Megalochori. The exchange was made in 1819. Today it is the parish church of Pyrgos.
Hagios Nickolaos (St. Nickolas) and Hagioi Apostoloi (Holy Apostles)
At a small distance from the village Pyrgos, to the east, we find the old church of Hagios Nickolaos. It was built over an early Christian church. It is a tree-aisled basilica with a dome and a narthex. The central aisle is dedicated to Hagios Nickolaos, the northern one to Hagia Eirini (St. Irene) and the southern one to Hagios Dionysios Areopagites (St. Dionysios the Areopagite). The narthex was added later to serve as a burial place for the bishop of Thera Dionysios (1744- 1767).
On the lintel of the western gate of the church, towards the narthex, there is an inscription that dates its completion to 1764.
There are many marble elements inside the wall masonry, which probably come from the ancient city of Thera. One of the church’s characteristics is the Episcopal throne inside the holy altar (Synthronon), with parts of grave stele (with coating).
Hagios Nickolaos is located next to low built constructions, almost in ruins in our days, inside which there is a small chapel of the cross-vaulted type with the entrance on the long axis. This chapel, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Petros and Pavlos, operated as an Episcopal chapel, which is why it bears the name “konaki”.
Hagios Georgios (St. George), Laggadi Pyrgos
A small chapel with icons from the 18th century. It is located on the southern side of Pyrgos, inside the vineyards.
Mesa and Exo Gonia
It is located in Exo Gonia, in the region “Kaminia”. It is a single-aisled vaulted basilica. The sanctuary is separated from the main church through a decorated iconostasis.
The church of Hagios Panteleimon, along with the estates that surround it, was dedicated to the Monastery by the hierodeacon Parthenios Sigalas, in the year 1725. According to the dedicatory letter it had to have a vicar at all times and to operate a holy mass once every week “in memory of his parents and brothers…”. This obligation was kept until 1856.
From a document of the Monastery (no. 29/ 5-8-1860), addressed to the bishop of Thera, by the hegumen Dionysios Roussos, we get the information that this metochi “…needs a steward, because it is located far from the Monastery and most of the estates are also located in that area…”. He proposes the monk Makarios Karamolegos, who will be the supervisor together with the steward of the Monastery Daniel Roussos for the Monastery’s sake.
After the promulgation of the decree about the resolution of of the Sacred Monastery of the Prophet Elias’ property (FEK 314/ 19-10-1933. p. 1, part A) the estates of the Hagios Panteleimon metochi in a land of 12 acres were sold. The church, however, and many buildings around it, still remains under the jurisdiction of the Monastery.
Panagia (Virgin) Enkardiotissa, Hagia Eirini (St. Irene), Hagios Georgios (St. George)
The people of the island call them “the three churches”, and they are located close to the metochi of Hag. Panteleimon. The primary building must have been the central one, the church of the Genethlion (Birth)
of the Virgin, which was founded probably during the second half of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century.
Later on, two more chapels were added, the chapel of Hagia Eirini to the north and that of Hagios Georgios to the south. Denaxas mentions that they were dedicated to the Monastery in 1726, by Maroulina Fousteri together with two estates, in commemoration of the parents and children. The vault of the central church bears remains of old murals. The figures of the scenes are depicted over a dark background, while every iconographic subject is separated from the other through three bands, the central one in red, and the other two in white.
The church follows the architectural type of the cross-domed type. According to an inscription found above its entrance it was renovated on the 10th of April 1825, on Syrigos Timotheos’ expense. It appears to have undergone many renovations since then. The church was dedicated to the Monastery by the couple of Markos and Irene Tarzentas. In the absence of a cemetery church for the region of Exo Gonia, it was returned to the village in 1863 for the foundation of a regional cemetery, which exists until this day.
Hagios Zosimas of Vounitsa
It is a low single-aisled vaulted basilica with a small dome (D= 0,90 & H= 0,70 m), shaped on the roof’s clay. It was founded in 1690. It was dedicated to the Monastery around 1740, together with the estates, by the priest- monk Parthenios Markotzane, brother of the Monastery. According to the relevant dedicatory document, the dedication was made under the presence of Zacharias, the archpriest at the time “in memory of Kalliope and children”, with the obligation of operating a mass once every month, as the Catalogue of the Chapels informs us.
It is located in the region of the old city of Fera, the “Kato Fera”, that is why it is called “Katoferianos”. The church honours two saints (Hagios Menas and Hagios Alexios, the man of God) and it is built according to the architectural type of contracted cross-in-square and bears a dome with light.
Its sanctuary is low. It was dedicated to the Monastery by Georgios Krispos, a descendant of the duke Jacob Krispos of Santorini, in 1742, along with the estates and a residence, “of his wife, the priest’ s wife”, in his own words. In 1816, the abbot Gerasimos Mavromattis expanded and decorated it on his own expense. In 1843 the abbot of the Monastery Gerasimos Mavromattis renovated the church.
According to the relevant dedicatory document, the Monastery undertakes the obligation to constantly maintain “a vicar in it and to operate a mass once every week”.
Hagia Triada (Holy Trinity)
It belongs to the architectural type of a cross-vaulted church with the entrance on the long axis. On the interior floor plan, one can slightly detect the shape of a cross-in-square. Later on, the exact date is unknown, a rectangular gallery was added, which connects to the church by a two-lobed pointed opening. The façade of the gallery (women’s quarters) is at the same level with the façade of the church. According to Denaxas it was founded around 1700.
Nickolaos Denaxas and the brothers Aggeletos and Giannoulakis Sigalas, abiding by the will of their mother Marousa from Pyrgos, dedicated the church to the Monastery on the 12th of December 1756.
Hagios Georgios Thalassitis
(St. George of the Sea)
It is located in the region of Emporeio, between Perissa and Exomyte, close to the sea. It was initially located inside a small vineyard of the Monastery. Later on, according to the tradition, after the request of the people of Emporeio, permission was given to use part of the vineyard in order to extend the church and make it independent. The extension was thus made, with a domed church honouring three saints, bearing a circular yard, two refectories (a big and a small one), a kitchen and a cistern.
It has a bell-tower at the end of the yard, which was renovated, because the old one ran the risk of collapsing after the earthquake of 1956. Around 1970 the two side aisles were renovated as well and were turned into chapels (south: Hagios Eleutherios, north: Markos the Evangelist). All the ecclesiastical vessels, and the wooden-carved gilded iconostasis were renovated too.
All that, was made thanks to the financial contribution of the people of Emporeio, especially those who lived in Russia, under the unwearied care and supervision of Nickolaos Mavromattis, who brought icons, vessels and vestments from Russia.
In our days, under the care of the brotherhood of the Monastery of Prophet Elias, the chapel was restored and renovated anew.
It is a big church, located outside Kastelli. It follows the architectural type of the cross-in-square church with a dome. On its south-western corner there used to be a three storey castellated bell-tower. The dome’s drum is octagonal. The church belonged to the priest-monks Agapios and Athanasios, who dedicated it to the Monastery together with two houses and a cistern, in 1731.
Due to the lack of a parish church, the residents of Akroteri on the 20th July 1882 asked the Monastery to give it over to them. Their request was satisfied in 1884, according to the document no. 5582/1883 of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and after a royal decree, which was publicized to Nikodemos Sakellariadis, the bishop of Thera at the time, and the monastery board.
The church was thus given over to the region of Akroteri and it is used as a parish church until this day.
Theotokos (Virgin) “Kateuchiani”
On the rock above Perissa we can see the snowy white chapel of “Kateuchiani”. Denaxas mentions that is was built between 1537-1650. It is a single-aisled vaulted basilica.
Ioannis Prodromos (St. John the Baptist) (Dendri)
It is located on the upper part of the church of Perissa. It is a single-aisled basilica. Michael Denaxas dedicated it to the Monastery in 1887, along with the land that surrounds it, and was maintained by himself until his death, in 1917, with contributions from the residents and especially his sons. After its collapse by the 1956 earthquakes, it was rebuilt by the family of Gorgakis Nomikos.
The whole area of ancient Thera belonged to the Monastery of Prophet Elias, a fact that is confirmed by the number of documents in the records of the monastery. Mesa Vouno is the most historical part of the island.
The churches that are located in the region of Mesa Vouno are the following:
This church is located at the entrance of ancient Thera, on its northern side and at a height of 356 m. It is one of the most remarkable, preserved churches of the region. It is founded on the ruins of the early Christian basilica of the Archangel Michael and Hagios Georgios. For its construction, material from the old temple as well as from other nearby ancient buildings has been used.
The church of Hagios Stefanos belongs to the architectural type of the two-aisled vaulted basilica. The southern aisle honours the name of Hagios Stefanos, while the northern one is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. The vaults of the aisles are pointed, and the aisles are separated by columns of linear architraves. The iconostasis, as well as the Communion Table, are made of various ancient marbles. In this church, the first monastery of Thera was founded by the hierodeacon Parthenios Sigalas.
Metamorphosis (Transfiguration) of the Saviour (Christoulaki)
The church is located at a small distance from Hagios Stefanos and it is carved on a limestone rock. It is commonly called “Christoulaki”, because of its small size (L: 2,70, W: 2,80, H: 2,00 m.). It is claimed to have been a pagan temple during ancient times (Sanctuary of Demeter), while there is no information as to when it was turned into a Christian church. It existed in 1716, when the hegumen and owner of the Monastery of Prophet Elias Gabriel Belonias bought it, who also erected the three churches of the Mesa Vouno (Hagios Stefanos, Evaggelismos (Annunciation), Panagia Kateuchiani), to adjoin it to the Monastery. It is wholy carved in the rock and it has an almost square ground plan. The sanctuary is elevated by two stairs. The communion table consists of a doric capital. On the left corner of the Sanctuary there is a built pedestal, which serves as a prothesis (space for the office of preparation). The iconostasis is made of volcano rocks.
These two chapels (Hag. Stefanos and Christoulaki) were built when the estates of the region were bought from Matheus Laggadas by the owner of the Monastery Gabriel Belonias, on the 25th of October 1716, with the amount of 35 spanish realia, as the Code A΄ of the Monastery mentions..
Evaggelismos Theotokou (Annunciation)
It is located almost in the centre of the Mesa Vouno, under the ancient city and it is founded on the remains of the ancient Heroon. A prelatic letter by Zacharias Gyzis, that was published in 1707, mentions that a church with cells was going to be built. This temple was built later, by the hierodeacon Parthenios Sigalas, to be used as a small single monk habitation. Later on, during the times of the hegumen Gabriel Belonias, it became part of the Monastery in exchange of 5 realias, together with the whole estate property. It belongs to the architectural type of the single-aisled vaulted basilica. The entrance is located on the southern side. Its side is adjacent to a little house, said to be a dwelling place for monks. The temple as well as the side building are built with ancient marble carved architectural parts.
Zoodochos Pege (Fountain of Life)
Climbing south from Kamari to the path towards the Mesa Vouno, that leads to ancient Thera, we find, at an altimeter of 190 m., the church of Zoodochos Pege (Fountain Of Life). The church belongs to the ordinary architectural type of the single-aisled vaulted basilica. On its northern side, the church rests on high rocks and it is surrounded by huge boulders; it appears as if it blooms out of them.
It is sustained that is was built between 1825-1834 by the anchorites of the small habitation of Mesa Vouno.
Beside the church there is the mouth of a wide cave with stalactites and running water, which is called holy water. The cave is extended horizontally to some depth and it comprises two cavities. The church must have gained its name by the neighbouring cave with the spring water.
The water, the single case of running water of the island, falls into rock water basins. The cave is 25 m. long, 3-6 m. wide and 5-8 m. high. It has been claimed that it used to be a hiding place for the Christians during the pogrom period. At the back of the cave there is a small opening, that one can only pass crawling. On the other side, there is a small square cave, 1 m. high, where there is also running water.
Above Zoodochos Pege, on the right, there is another big cave, which has spiral dark halls. In the year 1903 or 1904 supervisors of the French Company came from Lavrion, among them Nickolaos Kozaos from Emporeio, to investigate for an ancient mine. According to them, a mine did exist, and was exploited by the people of ancient Thera.
About the Holy Skete (hermitage)
The priest-monk of the Monastery of the Prophet Elias Porphyrios, for the world Savvas Mendrinos from Gonia, with the permission of the hegumen Gerasimos Mavromatis, helped his father with the cultivation of the estates of the Monastery.
He lived with him in one of the Monastery’s residences in the church of Evaggelismos (Annunciation) where he operated various religious services. At the same time, during the year 1825, at the metochi of St. John the Baptist, in Monolithos of Mesaria, lived the monk Makarios Stefanakis from Crete together with Agapios Metaxas from Istanbul, a monk of Athos. Agapios Metaxas had arrived in the island in 1822.
The monks belonged to the Kollyvades brotherhood, and were particularly esteemed by the whole island. The difficulty that people met in their effort to travel to Monolithos led to the transfer of the monks to the Monastery of Metamorphosis (Transfiguration) in Gonia.
At the same time, the monks desired to found a hermitage (asketerion) in Mesa Vouno. They managed to do so within two years, thanks to the contributions of the islanders as well as the fund raising in Amorgos, Paros, Syros and Hydra. For the construction of the Skete the monks worked together with the constructors, as well as with monks from the Prophet Elias Monastery, especially Ioasaf Patiniotis from Astypalaia.
This Skete was located on a steep edge of the eastern side of the island, at the position “Kioni”. It was triangular in shape, it had a narrow corridor and small halls, that led to very narrow cells. A straight path lead to it, which bore a wooden cross on its edge, typical characteristic of a skete. This cross was preserved until 1897.
Antonios N. Sigalas in his memorandum describes the history and topography of the asketerion (newspaper “Ethnos”, 15-8-1947):
“From then on they started gathering the devotees in Kamari, either once a month or every week, in order to operate all night long vigils, during which they all had to attend the mass and receive the communion.
At the same time, they started building the Asketerion in an inaccessible and steep spot above the small bay of “Kioni”, as they call it, through which they transferred with ropes all the construction material to the site.
The construction was completed after two years and it costed around 100 thousand drachmas. It was surrounded by high walls like a fortress and comprised very few single rooms, without any furniture or vessels, one storehouse where one could find whatever he asked for, and one cistern whose water was drained through pipes to the mountains.
In the slits of the rocks they had sowed various flowers. Inside the Skete there was also a private room bearing various engraved icons of saints on the walls and a tray with holy bread. The whole building was enclosed by small iron gates, that one had to cross bending. They also constructed an expensive road from Kamari to the Asketerion, that lasted half an hour, on which they put a cross up to the point where the people were allowed to reach.”.
After the completion of the Asketerion of the Mesa Vouno, they built a smaller one in Gonia, for the use of women.
In March 1844 the monk Agapios Metaxas deceased, having foreseen his own death ten days earlier and having prepared his grave. His children in God, after they had buried him at the spot he had designated for himself, they commissioned two icons of him from the painter Mercurios Sigalas, from Emporeio. They put the one on his grave, and the other in the church of Hagios Nickolaos in Kamari. Three years after he died, his relics were removed by a representative of the Monastery of Hydra Kyprianos Ntakoutros, who came for this purpose. He transferred the relics of Agapios to Hydra, because he was a brother of the Monastery.
After Agapios’ death, Porfyrios was called to officiate in the church of the Holy Cross of Perissa.
In 1845, the Archbishop of Cyclades Daniel went to Thera and learned all about the Kollyvades brothers. He asked Porphyrios to denounce his beliefs, but he refused. After that, Daniel reported to the Holy Synod, who judged him in absentia, and convicted him to exile in Skiathos, where he died on the 26th of March 1852.
The metochi of the Virgin Kalamiotissa in Anafi
The church is dedicated to the Genethlion (Birthday) of the Virgin and has the name Kalamiotissa, because it is situated on the mountain Kalamos of Anafi. According to the local tradition, it is named Kalamiotissa because the icon of the Virgin was found on the top of a hill, hung on a cane (= kalami). The Virgin wanted her church to be built there, so she carried the workers’ tools at night. That is why the Monastery was built on the top of the hill, at a height of 460 m. The Katholikon is a high proportioned single-aisled vaulted temple, and the vault’s drum is eight-sided on the outside. The sanctuary has a wide and semicircular apse and the temple also has a double-arched neoclassical bell tower. Inside the Katholikon, a wooden carved iconostasis is preserved.
The Monastery was visited around 1700 by the French traveller Tournefor, who describes the landscape as one of the most tremendous in the world. The first monk was a shipmaster from Oia, who was saved calling out to the Virgin and promised to be a deacon to her grace. After a while his brother joined him.
They lived outside Kalamiotissa in two cells, but they built two more and renovated the existing cistern.
On the wall of one cell, opposite the church, a fixed plate with an engraved inscription was found: “Oia of Thera, the brother monks Agapios and Meletios” It was stolen in 2003.
In 1751, after a patriarchal sigillion by Sofronios from Ierosolyma (1774-1780), the Monastery is proclaimed a patriarchal stavropegion. The rights of the stavropegion are renowned in 198 by the patriarch Gregory V.
The difficulty of access was, during the course of time, the reason why the Monastery became deserted, and was transferred to its current position, on flat ground and in the courtyard of the sanctuary of Apollo Aigletos.
The church was built in 1850, by the hegumen Makarios Arvanitis or Mavros, from Anafi. It is a single-aisled vaulted church with a posterior multi-arched bell-tower on its southern façade. In the interior, it preserves a painted and wooden carved iconostasis of the 19th century. Most of the icons are the work of Nickolaos Karavias, dated to the second half of the 19th century as well. Among them, we find the clearly anterior icon of the Virgin Kalamiotissa with its silver gilded coating.
The new Monastery was deserted too and its hegumen Agapios Sigalas remained there for a long time hoping for the arrival of monks. Because of the lack of men, the incorporation to the Monastery of Thera became inevitable. Its incorporation as a metochi to the Prophet Elias Monastery was made on the 30th of April 1930 and was recorded in the Government’s Newspaper 144/7-5-1930. Since then it is a metochi of the Prophet Elias Monastery and it is supervised by it.
On the left of the new Monastery we find the church of Hagios Makarios and further down the old temple of Zoodochos Pege, that used to serve as a second Katholikon. Nowadays, it is dedicated to the holy martyrs Apollo and Socrates.
Outside the Monastery, on the north, the chapel of Hagios Nektarios predominates, on a spot where there used to be a windmill. It was built in 1970 by the prior Ioannis Arvanitis. Finally, at the borders of the estates of the Monastery and at 2 km. distance, there is the chapel of Hagioi Anargyroi, while on the north south highlands that of Hagios Mamas.