July 21, 2016

The Prophet Elijah's Church in Koufonissia

In the area of Profiti Ilia (named after the Prophet Elijah or Elias) at Koufonissia in the Cyclades of Greece, there are traces of an early Roman Orthodox church.

In the early 1940s the inhabitants raised money to restore the church, but the sum was not sufficient and two local people undertook to take the money to the Dodecanese to invest so that the necessary funds were collected. However, they vanished without trace and this was considered a bad omen for the reconstruction of the church.

In 1972 Papa Stathis, Giannis Roumeliotis and Katie Ioannou, sister of the then local GP undertook to clear the area.

Their efforts uncovered two columns and a slab of marble from a Roman church. Their first thought was to use them to establish a rudimentary altar.

The following year, 1973, during the course of ongoing maintenance work, they uncovered more of the stonework of the church and constructed a slight wall where they placed the Prophet’s icon and an oil lamp.

That same year on the afternoon of the Prophet’s feast day, July 20, the inhabitants arrived on foot at the half-finished shrine to hold Vespers.

In 1974, the Church decided that no Liturgy could be held at the ruins, on the grounds that it was not a consecrated church.

Nowadays you can still see the ruins, the altar and the icon of the Prophet with the lamp still burning, tended by the faithful.

Every year on July 20, the devout still congregate at the shrine and hold Vespers. Soft drinks are offered to those who attend.

The plot where the shrine stands is private property but entrance is free.