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Religious monuments

It is estimated that 600 churches and country churches were built on the island -most of them after the 1956 earthquake. 50 of these churches are consecrated to Virgin Mary!

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Most of them are characterized by folk architecture of a unique style. Big all-white surfaces in the form of cubes, parallelograms, octagonal prisms, spheres, and cylinders dominate. There are no architectural ornaments, while openings are few and small. However, there are also several big churches built in the end of the 19th century. Typical examples include Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Bellonias in Fira and Aghios Georgios (Saint George) in Oia, before the earthquake. They are based on Byzantine and Classical Greek architectural standards.
Rock hewn underground and built are the most common types of temples. Rock hewn is one fourth of the island's churches and have been built as the respective houses. They are small and simple, their spaces are cavernous and dark, they have no decoration but nevertheless excite the visitor as works of faith of the poor*. Built churches compared to Cyclades' have the distinctiveness of totally adapting to the volcanic environment by craftsmen who maintained the tradition using strictly local materials. The simplest architectural type is the Basilica, single aisled, marble roofed or with a dome, two aisled (more rare type with Saint Irene of Perissa built before the 12th century as a typical example). Three aisled Basilica is Aghios (St) Nikolaos o Kissiras in Pyrgos. There are also Crossdomed and Crosstyped recorded temples.

It is worth visiting the monastery of Prophet Εlias near Pyrgos and the monastery of Saint Nicholas in Imerovigli.

There are churches to be admired in the settlements as well as around them or on the slopes of the mountains. The most important byzantine monument in Santorini is the temple of Panagia Episkopi (Mary's Bishopric) in the village Episkopi (or Mesa) Gonia.
You will find many remarkable churches in the Kasteli of Pyrgos, in the settlement and around it. Interesting are also the temples of Megalochori, Birth of Mary, Aghii (St) Anargiri and Zoodochos Pigi.
A very impressive chapel that is built on a wonderful spot in the volcanic rock is Panagia Sergena near Vothonas.
In Karterados there is the church of the Ascension of Christ. Inside the castle of Emporios rises the old church of Evangelism or Panagia Mesiani.
In Fira you will admire the Orthodox Cathedral, the temple of Saint Ioannis the Theologian (Aghios Ioannis Theologos), Aghios (st) Minas at Kato Fira and the Catholic Cathedral.
In Imerovigli it is worth noticing the churches of Anastasis (resurrection), Aghios Georgios, Panagia Malteza, Aghios Ioannis Katiforis on the road to Skaros, and Panagia Theoskepasti on its west side.
In the centre of Oia there is the temple of Panagia Platsani and towards the Goulas you will find the church of the Birth of Mary, and Aghios Nikolaos (St Nicholas). In the settlement and in the broader area of Oia there are a lot more smaller and larger churches some of which are the old temple of Aghia (St) Matrona in Finikia and Ai Lias (Saint Elias), Aghios (St) Ioannis Thalassinos (seaman) beside the lighthouse, Kira-Panagia.
Most have indigo cupolas and ornate steeples. Inside there are pictures, silver offerings hanging from chandeliers, Russian ecclesiastic relics and elaborately carved walls from local artisans. They are all equipped with an auxiliary edifice containing benches and tables, ("panigirospito"), which is used during a celebration and when a feast ("panigiri") is cited (meat with potatoes, beans, cod with potatoes etc.)
Those who love trekking will come across some very beautiful country churches. In the path of Fira-Imerovigli-Oia you will come upon Aghios (St) Antonios, Prophet Elias above Imerovigli, the small church of the Cross, on the top of Mavro Vouno. Panagia Katefiani stands out in the path leading from ancient Thera to Perissa.

*, ** I. Koumanoudis "The folk houses and churches of Santorini" from the book "Santorini" by Michael Danezis/1971. Editing Emm. A. Lignos.

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