Greece is a country with a deep connection to Christianity and its traditions. The country’s churches and monasteries are ideal for religious and sightseeing tours in Greece. Bathed by the Greek sun or by the sea, perched on a mountain top among rocks and dense vegetation, in the town square or hidden in the city alleys, the churches, chapels and shrines in Greece are of unique beauty and a familiar feature of the country’s landscapes. They all have their own unique story and many of them are intertwined with myths and traditions of the place. They are authentic and timeless and many have been declared World Heritage sites.
Churches in Athens
At the heart of Athens, on Metropoleos square, is the cathedral church of the city of Athens and one of the first large monuments of Athens as the capital of Greece. The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation is the cathedral church of the Archbishopric of Athens and all Greece. The “Mitropolis” is a must-visit on any Athens tour, as the spiritual center for the Greek Orthodox faith in Greece and one of the most important holy sites in the city.
One of the most beautiful and elaborate architectural churches that adorn the center of Athens is the Kapnikarea, The Sacred Temple of the Virgin Mary. Located in the middle of the pedestrian street of Ermou near Plaka, it is one of the oldest churches in Athens dating back to the 11th century. As it was common with the early Christian churches, this was built over an ancient Greek temple dedicated to the worship of a goddess, possibly Athena or Demeter. A major landmark and an important meeting point for locals, Kapnikarea is an ideal spot to sit down and take a break when on an Athens tour.
Panagia Pantanassa is located in Monastiraki Square. The district of Monastiraki, which means small monastery in Greek, is named after the monastery on the square. This was once annexed to the Monastery of Kaisariani and used by monks and later as a nunnery.
Anafiotika is a picturesque island-like quarter built on the rocks of the Acropolis. The residents there built small churches, such as Saint George of the Rock (Agios Georgios tou Vrachou). There is also Agios Symeon in the Anafiotika, to the west of the district. It is a neoclassical style church, externally decorated with yellow and red stripes, as they once adorned churches in the 19th century.
Perched on the summit of Lycabettus Hill, the whitewashed Cycladic-style chapel of Saint George (Agios Georgios) stands tall, offering some of the best views of the city and the sea. While the dates from the 18th century, some believe that it was built on the site of the ancient temple of Akreos Zeus. This is an ideal spot to watch the sunset and the perfect spot to finish your Athens tour.
Churches on the Greek Islands
Under the blue sky, the white chapels stand peacefully and blend in with the unique Greek island landscapes. Historically, the many churches and small chapels were built around the Greek Islands facing the sea to aid in the safe voyage and return of sailors.
Mykonos has many churches and chapels. Their total number exceeds 600 throughout the island. Discover as many as you can while on your Mykonos tour around the town. Most impressive in construction is the famous and photographed Virgin Mary Paraportiani, a cluster of five churches. Another important church is the Panagia Tourliani, which was built in 1542 by two monks in the monastery of Ekatontapyliani, as the inscription on the miraculous icon of the same period mentions.
Santorini is overrun with chapels, churches and monasteries that are scattered throughout the island. Explore the small, whitewashed churches adorned with blue domes and the extraordinary cathedrals and celebrated monasteries that stand out for their majestic characteristics and striking frescoes. The largest church in Santorini is the Orthodox Cathedral which is located in the center of Fira and was built in the 19th century. In close proximity is the Catholic Cathedral dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. On the hillside village of Pyrgos, the highest point of Santorini, is the Monastery of Profitis Ilias with its Cycladic architecture, offering panoramic breathtaking views of the island and the Aegean Sea. On your Santorini tour, make sure to wander through Pyrgos small winding cobblestone lanes and paths and discover its historic charm.
When on a Corfu tour, as you enter the old town of on the port side, before arriving at Spianada you will find what is the island's most famous religious monument: the church of Saint Spyridon. Built in 1590, this church is a typical example of the church architecture of the Ionian Islands. In this church, a relic of Saint Spyridon, who is considered the patron saint of Corfu, is preserved in a silver shrine of the 19th century. Saint Spyridon became a saint because he rescued the island twice from the plague (1554 and 1630), a famine in 1716 from the Turks.
The religious tradition of Kefalonia is evident to the visitor on a Kefalonia island tour. Churches, from the smallest chapels to the most significant monasteries, are an integral part of the lives of the inhabitants and the landscape of cities, villages and the environment of the island in general. Among the churches of Kefalonia, of particular interest is the Holy Monastery of Agios Gerasimos, the patron saint of the island, which was founded in Omala in the 16th century.
Churches on the Mainland
A tour of the Monasteries of Meteora offers the unique experience of nature’s grandeur along with man’s desire to connect with the Divine. The word Meteora translates as "hovering in the air" and that is exactly what the medieval monasteries seem to do. Built atop the towering rock pinnacles, the monasteries were once virtually inaccessible. The monks’ only access to the towering pillars of stone were via net baskets which would transport them up the straight rock by a rope pulley system. Now a road leads close to the base of the pinnacle and a rock staircase provides access to the visitor.
Have a taste of the mountainous part of Central Greece on a day trip from Athens to Delphi. Then, visit the famous Monastery of Hosios Loukas, a UNESCO monument of the 10th century AD, situated amid beautiful natural surroundings.
Churches in the Peloponnese
One of the largest and most significant churches in the Balkans and one of the largest in Europe is Saint Andreas Church, the patron saint of Patra and the First-called Apostle of Christ. Saint Andreas in the largest church in Greece and can accommodate at least 5000 people. On your Patras tour, you will have the opportunity to admire the Byzantine-style wall paintings, the mosaics and the 46-meter-high central cupola.
Near Kalavryta, in the Peloponnese, is the awe-aspiring Monastery of Agia Lavra where the revolution flag of 1821 was raised, and the Mega Spilaio, located in a stunning landscape at the entrance of a natural cave. The monastery compound consists of eight floors and it is literally carved into the rock.
Kremasti Monastery, located in the heart of the countryside near Olympia, provides insight into the Orthodox religion with its chatty nuns and the wonderful views. Become amazed by the Monastery of Kremasti as it stands majestically at an imposing height and seems to be hanging off the rock.
Further to the north-west of the Peloponnese is the Monastery of Sepeto. This 11th-century church literally hangs over the narrow gorge of Triton, while the homonymous gushing waterfall flows through the dense forest of wild oaks. Marvel the architecture and location with unique views.
When in Kalamata, you can visit the Monastery of Saint Constantine and Helen, famous both in Greece and abroad for its silk art. Also, visit the Byzantine church of the Holy Apostles which was built in 1150 AD. There, on March 23, 1821, the Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Turks and thus the National Revolution of Independence began.
Off the coast of the southeastern Peloponnese, in the fortified town of Monemvasia, discover the medieval Elkomenos Christos Church and a small museum located in Elkomenos Square. The Byzantine church of Agia Sofia is located on the edge of a cliff and gives stunning views to the sea.
On the rocky hill at the foot of Mount Taygetos lies the medieval Mystras. The Castle Town of Mystras is overflowing with churches and the ruins of palaces and homes amphitheatrically spread among cypresses and pines. Within the castle walls is the Cathedral of Agios Dimitrios, the oldest church of Mystras which was founded in the 13th century and used as the religious center of the Byzantine town. The Archeological Museum of Mystras is housed in the courtyard at the west side of the church. Admire the frescoes and see where the last Byzantine emperor of the Paleologos Dynasty was crowned.
Countless historical churches and Byzantine monasteries built in picturesque settlements, harmoniously located in modern cities or atop steep rocks testify a land of long history and tradition and symbolize the human attempt to transcend the earthly. Destinations of every type that will easily captivate the traveler!