No matter which season you select to visit and explore Santorini, you have to spend some time visiting the glorious monastery of Prophet Elias in Pyrgos. Pyrgos has about 33 churches but the specific one combines great decorations, amazing bell towers and breathtaking views among others. This combination makes Monastery of Prophet Elias a must see landmark of Santorini.
The Mountain’s name is Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah), coming from the Monastery with the same name on its peak. The mountain of Prophet Elias lies 4 Km south to Pyrgos village and this is the highest point of Santorini (586 meters).
If you follow the path from Pyrgos square and proceed along the rising road, you will reach the Prophet Elias Monastery.
Early History of the Monastery
The Monastery was built in 1712. The walls round the Monastery remind of a fortress. The history of Profitis Ilias is long and very importand for the life of Santorini during the centuries. In earlier times, it owned its’ own ship (St. George with 15-member crew and the captain Anthony Danezis) which conducted private business for the benefit of the monastery and at the same time the Monastery was an active intellectual and patriotic influence.
Profitis Elias helped Greece in Russian-Turkish war of 1787 when Catherine the Great promised to help the Greeks, Pyrgos went to the part of Russian ships and spent what they had at their disposal. The St. George crossed the Bosphorus, under the flag of the monastery and the image of the monastery, as we shall inform relevant document of the monastery, located in the library of the House and signed by the abbot Neophytos Kontaratos.
From 1806 to 1845 it ran a school where the Greek language and literature were taught.
The monastery started to decline in the 1860s and suffered much destruction in the strong earthquake that hit Santorini in 1956.
The monastery today has an important collection of icons and bibles, and artefacts of the Greek Orthodox religion, ecclesiastical objects, books and ethnographic material.
It also has workshops on printing, shoe-making and candle-making. The monks also deal with wine making. From the yard of the Monastery, you get excellent and breathtaking views of the whole island of Santorini.
The monastery took its present form in the mid 19th century when King Otto visiting Santorini and fascinated by the site urged to make an extension.
Architecture of Prophet Elias Monastery
Tips & What not to miss
- You may have guessed that you should bring your camera and take a lot of pictures of the breathtaking view. Do not do it though. It is unfortunate that this location was chosen as a military base so photographs are strictly prohibited. Trace your eyes over the island and you can see vineyards, beaches and churches. Although the top of the mountain is flanked with barracks and surveillance cameras, it is worth visiting Monastery of Prophet Elias for the amazing views.
- The monastery has a significant collection of icons and religious books, and articles of the Orthodox religion, religious objects, books and ethnographic material.
- The Monastery has an interesting folk museum. The cells that used to be the monks’ residence have now turned into a small museum of religious art. You can find a great selection of wines, icons, candles, wines, local delicacies and olives that you can buy at the monastery. Keep in mind that the monastery must sustain itself without state support.
- Spend some time admiring the colourful painted frescos and religious icons decorating the walls and ceilings. The carved wooden templon of the monastery is really beautiful as well.
- Do not forget your sunglasses. It is too sunny especially during the summer.
- Visiting the monastery in the afternoon is a great choice because you can enjoy the unique sunsets of Santorini. If you are lucky enough, you may also see the nearby islands, Ios, Folegandros and Sikinos.
- Walk distance from Pyrgos one and hald hour and if you approach from Ancient Thira it is one hour walking.
The memory of Prophet Elias is celebrated on July, 20 that offers festival from families Fitrou and Kontaratou.