Some of the most fascinating buildings, with the most unique architecture, that tourists can expect to see whilst visiting Greece, are old churches and monasteries, many of which date back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD.
Even though many of Greece’s churches were plundered and destroyed during the Ottoman era, there are still many churches and monasteries in the country today that are listed amongst the oldest temples in the world.
Either carved into mountains or built on remote islands, many Greek churches reveal secrets of the past and have numerous mysterious stories to tell.
Here are some of the most unique and mysterious Greek churches that have attracted international interest over the years, and have even received the recognition of UNESCO.
Agia Fotini – Mantineia
The church of Agia Fotini has been characterized as one of the most peculiar and most mysterious churches, because unlike any other church in the world, it combines a variety of different architectural styles, including elements of Byzantine art and ancient Greek culture.
Founded in 1973, the church is located opposite of the archaeological site of Mantineia in Arcadia, and was designed by the Greek architect, painter and hagiographer, Costas Papatheodorou, who was invited personally by the Mantinean Association to build a church in the area.
Besides being very unusual from the outside, the church is equally interesting and mysterious on the inside.
With a diversity of materials, the church’s mosaic floors and hagiographies on the walls, represent various scenes from the Bible, with hidden connections and symbolisms to ancient Greece.
Agia Theodora – Peloponnese
Even though Agia Theodora is a very small Byzantine church, located on the border of the prefectures of Arcadia and Messinia, it attracts the interest of hundreds of visitors every year.
This is not surprising of course, as the 12th century church offers a unique spectacle that cannot be witnessed anywhere else in the world: on top of the church’s roof, there are 17 large trees, all of which reach a height of more than 20 metres.
The roots of the trees are not visible and only the trunks and branches that pass through the walls and the roof of the tiny church can be seen. The water that runs in the river nearby irrigates the trees that have been “living” on top of the church for many decades.
Many of the old legends and myths in the area say that the number of trees is not random at all, since they represent the years of young Saint Theodora.
According to one of the stories that prevail, Agia Theodora came from a poor family and as the eldest child, she was forced to help support her parents financially and so, she disguised herself as a man and worked as a mercenary soldier.
Another young girl in the area fell in love with the disguised Theodora, and because there was no response to her feelings, the young girl accused the disguised mercenary of mistreating her and leaving her pregnant, which resulted in Theodora’s true identity being revealed.
Theodora was beheaded at age 17, and as the story describes her hair became the trees, her blood was flowing like the nearby river, and her body become the temple.
The church of Agia Theodora has also been included in the Guinness Book of World Records and was called a “wonderful abyss”.
Panagia Kakaviotissa – Lemnos
The Panagia Kakaviotissa church in the island of Lemnos stands out not only because of its very unique location – hidden within a mountain cave – but also because it is the only church in Greece without a roof.
The church took its name from the mountain Kakavo, on which it is located, and used to be the religious home for several monks, all of which either passed away or moved to Mouth Athos.
Today, the little church is one of the biggest attractions of the island and is considered a sanctuary for those who want to isolate themselves and pray away from the loud and busy cities.
Panagia Parigoritissa – Arta
The Panagia Parigoritissa church, located in the city of Arta, was built in 1285 and is considered one of the most important Byzantine monuments in the world.
The imposing church stands out for its rare dome, which looks like it is hovering, if someone looks at it from the inside of the temple. T
he master architect who designed the building in the 1200s, wanted to keep the top of the church dominated by a mosaic with the image of Jesus, visible from the entrance and from all the corners of the church.
A set of columns on the top floor of the church holds the dome, which is flooded by sunlight, creating an illusion and making it seem like the dome is floating in the air.
Chapel of the Seven Holy Children – Santorini
Many churches and monasteries around the world can be difficult to reach on foot or by car because of their remote locations.
This is also the case with the small Chapel of the Seven Holy Children, that can be found hidden on the island of Santorini.
The Chapel is so special because it was built next to a mountain rock, away from Santorini’s touristic streets, and it is only accessible by the sea, through the bay of Mouzakia.
It was named after the seven Christian children that escaped Ephesus to be saved from persecution against Christians during the Ottoman era, and is considered today, the most secret and most remote church in the country.