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August 30, 2017

The Chapel of Saint John Pratsika in Patras

The Pratsika family was a wealthy family of Patras, members of which were distinguished as merchants, landowners and politicians. The family was of Epirus descent. John Pratsika was the leader of the Christian community of Dhrovjan, a community in the Vlore County of southern Albania, when it was under Ottoman rule. He was assassinated by Ali Pasha, with the result that his sons Kotzas and Sideris fled first to Kerkyra and then around 1800 they settled in Patras of the Peloponnese. In Patras the two brothers, especially Sideris, purchased a large estate southwest of the city, and they began to cultivate it.

The family members were mainly engaged in commerce while occasionally engaging in politics. The Pratsika family became the most reputable in Patras, helping its members gain huge wealth. Characteristic of the enormous property of the family is that Sideris Pratsikas was one of the nine patriarchal landowners who were rewarded by Otto in 1847. He was elected many times a municipal councilor and the 1850 deputy of Patras, thus enhancing the glamor of the family. The family was involved in the establishment and management of the insurance company Proodos while holding a potash production plant in Antirrio.

Alongside the Pratsika estate, specifically on its southern side, passed the Diakonaris River which when it reached an overflow it would flood the surrounding areas and hence the estate, burying it with tons of mud and stones. In their attempt to clean up their property from the remnants of the torrent of Diakonaris, the Pratsika brothers Spyridon, Nicholas and Demetrios, the three sons of Kotzas, discovered the vaulted catacomb chapel, probably from the Byzantine era, and they restored it. Inside they also found an icon of the Beheading of the Honorable Forerunner and Baptist John, so they assumed the chapel had been dedicated to the same Saint John and they dedicated it to him. However, the humidity and the frequent floods created by the Diakonaris River, as well as the small size of the chapel, forced them in 1850 to build a larger chapel, which they dedicated to the Birth of the Honorable Forerunner, and it was later consecrated.

Since then, the Pratsika family and their current descendants the Tseroni family (Kalliopi Pratsika married in 1953 the Mayor of Patras Dionysios Tseroni), care for and preserve the two chapels, which only celebrates Divine Services twice a year, celebrating on June 24th for the Birth of the Honorable Forerunner and on August 29th for the Beheading of the Honorable Forerunner. These two chapels are a spiritual oasis within the urban fabric of the city of Patras and it is listed as a private monument. Furthermore, about 300 meters away there was built the Parish Church of the Honorable Forerunner and Saint John the Russian. When its foundation was established on August 29, 1997 an icon of the Honorable Forerunner was processed there from the Chapel of Saint John Pratsika, binding the two with a spiritual kinship. Also, besides the chapel the entire area around it is known as Pratsika, which was the surname of the builders. The neighborhood was previously known as Portes (Πόρτες) and was known by this name because it had the entry of the city, "the door". At the 1st cemetery of Patras there is the tombstone of the Pratsika family.

Catacomb Chapel of the Beheading of the Honorable Forerunner (Saint John Pratsika)

Chapel of the Birth of the Honorable Forerunner (Saint John Pratsika)

Parish Church of the Honorable Forerunner and Saint John the Russian in Patras