February 3, 2010

Church of the Prophet Elisha in Monasteraki (Where St. Nicholas Planas Liturgized Daily)

In the area of Monastiraki in Athens, across from Hadrian's Library, lies hidden a small church named Agiou Elissaiou (Saint Elisha), dedicated to the Prophet Elisha. It was probably built in the mid-17th century.

Nicholas Logothetis was from the island of Kea, who at a young age came to work for the Admiral of the Ottoman fleet, Pasha Tzanoum Hotza, and followed him in his campaigns. Eventually the young man fell into disfavor with the Admiral, and to escape his anger he fled to Athens and hid at Penteli Monastery. He managed to reconcile with Tzanoum Hotza, and helped him to capture Venetian Tinos. Later Nicholas Logothetis married the daughter of Bernard Kapetanaki, Consul of Great Britain, and they moved to Athens. Logothetis himself became the Consul of Great Britain, and built a beautiful mansion on Areos Street in Monastiraki, called the Logothetis Mansion, situated next to the Ottoman bazaar. The Logothetis Mansion was one of the few Greek mansions of the area. Interestingly it was from the courtyard of this mansion that Lord Elgin packaged the Parthenon marbles from the Acropolis. And in this same courtyard was the location of the Church of the Prophet Elisha, who was the patron of the Logothetis family.

It was in this church that St. Nicholas Planas (1851-1932) liturgized daily, with the two famous Greek authors from Skiathos, Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911) who chanted in the right choir and Alexander Moraitidis (1850-1929) in the left choir.

During World War 2 the owner of the Logothetis Mansion was Hercules Kazakos, Commander of the Navy. The Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities was preparing to declare the church a protected historical monument. Hercules Kazakos, fearing that he will lose the plot in such a case, decided to tear down the church and all the remnants of the old mansion. Despite the reactions of the archaeologist and architect Anastasios Orlandos, Kazakos demolished the Church of the Prophet Elisha. This happened because the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities first sued Kazakos for allowing it to fall into ruin and then declared it a protected church during the time of its demolition. It took sixty-two years to restore the Church of the Prophet Elisha, and just in 2005 the church was reestablished. The church is still there on Areos Street in Monastiraki, in the former courtyard of Logothetis Mansion.

See a video of the chapel here.