It was the historic battleship that defended Greece in the Balkan Wars, participated on behalf of the Allies in both World Wars and even transported troops to Asia Minor. Now it has become a floating museum at Faliron Bay for visitors far and wide, including the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been given a tour of this unique battleship.
The George Averof never lost a battle, and many believe it’s because of Agios Nikolaos, who is considered the Patron Saint of sailors and the sea and the majority of Greek ships carry his icon on board for protection.
The Averof went one step further, buoyed by the strong faith of its captain and crew, it became the only battleship to build a chapel on board, although it was not in the original plans, which they dedicated to Saint Nicholas.
The chapel was always serviced by a priest, who also ranked third in order of seniority on the ship. In addition to performing many sacraments such as marriages and baptisms, the priest was also tasked with teaching the mostly illiterate crew how to read and write.
Many miracles were witnessed on board this ship, including a bucket of water which had been used to clean the ship bearing the image of a Saint’s face in the water, which the crew had all observed and believed to be that of Saint Nicholas.
Another miracle occurred while the Averof was accompanying 70 merchant ships under threat when a loud noise was repeatedly heard by the Commander at the back of the ship. When he went to investigate it turned out to be a silver icon of Saint Nicholas following the ship in the water. In emotional scenes, a liturgy was immediately performed by the priest.
The Averof arrived in Greece in September 1911, the most modern warship in the Aegean at the time. It served as the flagship of admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis in the First Balkan War and played a major role in the establishment of Greek predominance over the Ottoman Navy and the incorporation of many Aegean islands to Greece.
The ship continued to serve in World War I, the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, and the inter-war period. Following Germany’s invasion of Greece in April 1941, the Averof participated in the exodus of the Greek fleet to Egypt.
The Averof made its last voyage in May 1947 to commemorate the accession of the Dodecanese Islands from Italy. In 1984 the Greek Navy decided to restore the ship to its current status, anchored as a floating museum.