The Monument’s Whereabouts
Piraiki Peninsula, located on the south side of the main port, is one of the most beautiful regions in Piraeus. Along the coastline, named Akti Themistokleous (Themistocles’ Coast) many small rocky coves are created, with the most prominent among them being Aphrodite’s Bay. Aphrodite’s Bay was also called Baikoutsi Bay, named after the owner of an old country club, once thriving in the area. Very few locals, however, would point you to your destination if you decided to make use of either toponym (Aphrodite or Baikoutsi Bay) since, for the citizens of Piraeus, this particular area is called nothing but “Stavros” (cross), named after the austere, great cement Cross looming over the bay’s little square.
Despite the commanding yet simple beauty of the Cross monument and without a guidebook at hand, the potential sightseer, arriving at Aphrodite’s Bay, would be at a loss as to what to make out of the scenery before him: a picturesque cove with colourful fishing boats and above this, surrounded by rocks, an idyllic little square with benches, a small white and blue chapel and, right in the middle, a huge cement Cross, thrice the height of the chapel! The Cross seems so incongruous that it is hard to believe how meaningful both its place and size had once been.
The Monument Itself
After WWII, in the 1950s and 1960s the memory of those unknown Greek sailors lost at sea was honored during the annual National Maritime Week. Nevertheless, the absence of an actual, distinctive memorial in Piraeus, a predominantly maritime city, was unthinkable. Thus, in 1969, a monument was built and placed in Aphrodite’s Bay. A sailor’s monument away from the sea is, of course, inconceivable. The specific location, however, was selected purely because it was easily discernible from the ships approaching the main port and that of Zea.
The Monument of the “Unknown Sailor” consisted of a large, 15-meter high cement Cross at the base of which a sculptural composition, made by the Greek sculptor Lazarus Lameras, lied. The composition depicted sea waves and 5 brass seagulls symbolizing the five continents. The overall project was elaborated by the architect Nikolaos Fintikakis. The size of the Cross served the same purpose as its location did: it could be seen from the open sea. The Cross was, in some way, a huge arrow pointing at the memorial at its base.
Shortly after the end of the Greek Military Junta (1974) the memorial was mysteriously lost – stolen, according to some -, the memory of the “Unknown Sailor” stopped being honored before his monument and the giant cement Cross ended up standing alone and gloomy against the landscape’s verve, its purpose long forgotten. The last line of an inscription gone along with the memorial is the only thing that remains as a testimony to the monument’s former value: May be myrrh the wave that took you away.
Around the “Cross”
“Stavros”, is a venue popular with locals. Standing in front of the “Cross” in Piraiki you can admire and take amazing photos of the captivating landscape and the unobstructed view of the Saronic Gulf’s sapphire blue waters, enjoying a perfect sunset.
The chapel of St. Nicholas where a flamboyant celebration of “Epiphany” (Blessing of Waters) takes place in winter is a favorite photo shooting spot not only for tourists, but for newly wedded couples as well.
Beneath the Monument of the “Unknown Sailor” lie the relics of the ancient “Long Walls” which extend along the coastline, while above, on Akti Themistokleous coast road many traditional taverns – ouzeri and modern cafés are located along the coast.