Santorini, the island of blue domes, officially named Thira, is the largest island of a small circular archipelago of the same name, located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast of mainland Greece. The island was known as Kallístē, the most beautiful one, until the thirteenth century, when it was renamed Santorini by the Latin Empire, a reference to Saint Irene, from the name of the old cathedral in the village of Perissa. However, the name Santorini is a contraction of the name Santa Irini. But despite the island, along with its main city was officially renamed Thera, revived in the nineteenth century from classical Greek Thira, its colloquial name Santorini is still popular among the locals.
Santorini is abundantly enriched with its unique volcanic landscape, rugged lava cliffs, black sand beaches, the famous caldera and the awe-inspiring Cycladic sunsets, but the Blue Domes of Santorini create a mesmeric effect which attracts tourists from all over the world. With hundreds of chapels, churches and monasteries spread throughout such a small island, featuring whitewashed walls and distinguished blue domes, it presents a perfect picture of a dreamland for the astounding visitors.
Set against the shimmering azure of the dancing Aegean Sea, Santorini is known as the paradise of the photographers and the most photographed blue domed churches of Santorini are the churches of Agios Spiridonas, Saint Spyridon and Anasteseos, the Church of the Resurrection, located in Oia village, built at the edge of the cliffs right next to one another.
They are the most preferred among the Santorini Blue Domes, especially by professional photographers, primarily for the idyllic views of the glistening Aegean Sea and the clear blue Mediterranean skies.
Panagia Platsani, another beautiful Santorini blue dome church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Akathist Hymn of the Virgin Mary, was originally built inside the castle of Oia and was rebuilt at the centre of Oia, after the original building was ruined by a devastating earthquake in 1956. According to a local legend, the icon of the Holy Mother was found in the sea and the name of the church, Panagia Platsani, comes from the sound of waves hitting the icon floating in the sea.
It is one of the most visited Blue Domes in Santorini, not only for the magnificence of its Cycladic architecture, but also for the breathtaking views of the sunset, offering divine spectacles. In addition, it also hosts all the major annual celebrations in its beautiful front courtyard.
However, among hundreds of chapels, churches and monasteries spread throughout the small island of Santorini, pictures of a particular church, named Panagia of Agioi Theodoro, Saints Theodore Church, undoubtedly inspired numerous people to visit the Greek island. The charming white chapel, situated on the rim of the caldera at Firostefani village and sitting high above the sea, is roofed with a blue dome, accompanied by a sugary three-bell belfry and also known as the church with the three bells belfry.
In the island, a preferred destination for lovers of hiking is the Panagia Theoskepasti Church, an impressive Santorini Blue Dome, located in Imerovigli village, near Skaros Rock, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the protection of God and is one of the symbols of the island that welcomes visitors to the gorgeous natural raw beauties and alluring volcanic scenery. Among the other blue dome churches of Santorini, Panagia Episkopi Church or Church of Episkopi Thiras is a fine specimen of traditional sacred architecture that has managed to preserve its glory throughout the time. Built in Mesa Gonia village, it has carefully preserved and sheltered several decorative sculptures, paintings, frescoes and ancient Byzantine icons dating back to the 11th century. Apart from that, Agios Gerasimos Church, erected in 1807, dazzles with its sharp colour contrast, making itself a spectacular object for photo shooting, added to the gorgeous surrounding scenery.
Nevertheless, no list of blue domes in Santorini is complete without the mention of Agios Nikolaos monastery, tucked into the area between the villages of Imerovigli and Firostefani. Founded in 1651, it is the second-oldest monastery on the island, but originally it used to be the private chapel of the Gizi family, one of the few Orthodox families staying in Kastelli, who decided to turn it into a monastery. The design of the nunnery reflects the clean and simple lines of the Cycladic style, while the interior of the edifice features beautiful artwork and spectacular golden icons of the.17th century. However, following the decision of the archbishop, the female monastery was subsequently shifted to a different location in 1815 and the edifice now houses an ecclesiastical and a folklore museum, containing rare Byzantine icons, including that of Agios Nikolaos.
In the end, it can be concluded without a hint of exaggeration that, richly adorned with picturesque blue domes, along with the awe-inspiring Cycladic sunsets, the charming Cycladic architecture, the black sand beaches and the unique volcanic landscape with the famous caldera, Santorini is a Cycladic pearl adorning the dancing Aegean Sea.