Prophet Elijah Church, a picturesque little church, is situated on the hill of Kastella, overlooking the whole city of Piraeus.
Originally operating as a private church dedicated to Prophet Elias, Saint George and Saint Eleftherios, probably built between 1868 and 1876, Prophet Elijah’s Church was bought by the Municipality of Piraeus and turned into a parish in 1883.
In 1944, during the Allies’ Bombardment of Piraeus, the church is completely destroyed. Rebuilt in 1948, Prophet Elijah’s Church will be once again destroyed after the 1981 earthquake. This time, a prefabricated church will be placed on the plot.
The iconography works in the church started in 1996. The iconography of Prophet Elijah’s Church is based on the Sinai iconography technique, with the emphasis put on giving Christ’s face a human, compassionate and sympathizing expression. There are scenes from Christ’s life as well as from Prophet Elijah’s life, while other biblical figures, such as Moses are represented. The concave surface at the top of the church gives the visitor the impression that the prophets’ figures move along following him, while Christ’s figure remains stable.
What strikes the visitor is the bright and vivid colors used as well as the innovative point of view of the iconographers, illustrating example of which are the different types of ships painted on each of the twelve column capitals, including among others, Noah’s Arc, an ancient Greek trireme and a post-modern arc carrying a church in the middle of the sea. On the western wall of the church is painted the Litany taking place on July 20th every year in honor of Prophet Elijah. The human aspect is emphatically present in this iconography, showing Prophet Elias’ icon being carried around by sailors, surrounded by the congregation.
Prophet Elijah’s Church, small and yet remarkable, gave its name to the area surrounding it, known as Prophet Elias. Every year on July 20th the Litany along with an impressive celebration take place around the church.
Within walking distance from Veakio Theater, situated in a mostly picturesque location, with a wonderful view over the golf of Saronis, Prophet Elijah’s Church is a spot worth visiting.
Prophet Elijah Church Trivia: Why are all Prophet Elijah’s churches built on hills?
Legend has it that Prophet Elijah used to be a sailor. After having experienced all kinds of adversities during his sea travels – he almost got drown -, he decided to abandon naval life once and for all and settle down in a place where people had no idea what the sea was.
With a row in his hands he left the sea behind him and headed to mountainous areas. Whenever he met people, he would ask them “what is this?” showing them the row. Every time they replied “it’s a row”, he would leave, moving higher and higher, asking people the same question. Finally, one day he met a shepherd at the top of a hill. “What is this?” Prophet Elijah asked. “It’s a piece of wood” answered the shepherd. Prophet Elias smiled and built a hut at the top of the hill.