Something noticeable to every visitor of Santorini is the significant number of religious monuments which are strongly connected with the local tradition and history of the island. Chapels, churches and monasteries are spread around Santorini island, some of them very old, with unique designs, vivid colors and traditional style.
It is believed that the church of Agia Irini (Saint Irene) located at the base of Mesa Vouno mountain at Perissa gave its name to the island. There are ruins of the Basilica of Agia Irini which was originally constructed during the 5th century and reconstructed in the 6th century.
Mesa Vouno mountain is the site of Ancient Thira. The chapel of Panagia Katefiani is also located there, 200m above sea level, overlooking the village of Perissa. The locals used to go there to protect themselves from enemies’ attacks and the volcano eruption in 1650.
The church of Timiou Stavrou, one of the largest of the island, is located at Perissa’s main square. Originally built between 1835-1840, it was reconstructed after the 1956’s earthquake which caused serious damages in the island.
The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Fira with the white arches, the church of Ipapanti, is located on the caldera and is worth a visit.
Santorini Catholic Cathedral is located in the Catholic Quarter of Fira and it is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Initially it was built in 1823 and it was fully restored after the volcanic earthquake of 1956. It has a remarkable bell tower.
Pyrgos village has some beautiful churches. If you get there on Easter time, you will be able to experience a magic Holy Good Friday as the whole hill is lit up with candles and there is an absolutely spiritual atmosphere. Eisodia tis Theotokou is the largest and one of the most important churches on the island which dates back to the 17th century and is located in Pyrgos castle.
In the evening of Holy Saturday, don’t miss the chance to go up to the monastery of Prophet Elias. Celebrations are traditional and electricity is not being used. The memory of Prophet Elias is celebrated on the 20th of July.
At Imerovigli village, on the rock of the Skaros fortified settlement that is connected to the village through a pathway, there is the small church of Panagia which is visible from the sea when approaching the island by boat and has a beautiful carved wooden screen.
Within the castle of Emporeio there is the church of Evaggelismos tis Theotokou (Annunciation of Virgin Mary), or Panagia (Virgin Mary) Messiani, which is dated in the 16th century or earlier. Close by there is also Agia (Saint) Kyriaki’s church with its two chapels – Ierarches and Aghios (Saint) Artemios, dated back to the 15th or 16th century.
At Mesa Gonia, there is the beautiful byzantine church of Panagia Episkopi which was built at late 11th century.
Agios (Saint) Nikolaos Monastery is located between Firostefani and Imerovigli. It was built in 1651 and is dedicated to three saints; Agios Nikolaos, Agios Panteleimon and Zoodohos Pigi. It houses a unique Byzantine icon of Saint Nicholas.