Church in Plaka is resurrected

Once upon a time in Plaka, there was a humble church situated opposite Hadrian’s library and the Roman Agora, and which lay behind the Ancient Agora. It was dedicated to the Prophet Elisha (Elisaios in Greek). Though a lowly chapel, it had incorporated a number of ancient marble pieces at various points, and was much loved by reputed Athenians, among them not a small number of writers. But what made the church of Prophitis Elisaios a memorable place was that it had been blessed by the presence of novelist and short-story writer Alexandros Papadiamantis. Thither he loved to go, in order to attend the service and sing, as did his cousin and namesake, the intellectual Alexandros Moraitidis. Priest of the church then was Papa Nicholas Planas, who was later beatified, and the two Alexandroses were his psalters. The story started in 1885, and slowly and gradually the humble church of Prophitis Elisaios became a much-loved holy retreat for many folk, both great and small. But the chapel was the property of the family Homatianos-Logothetis (14 Areos Street) and, during the Nazi occupation, the owner had it demolished, fearing it might be declared a listed building and he lose his home. Protests were made then, and demands for its being rebuilt have not ceased since. The Society of Papadiamantis Studies made it one of its goals. And in the end, then-Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos provided the necessary funding. Thus it was that the society was able to rejoice at the beginning of works to rebuild and restore the small church, following designs by Culture Ministry architects Nikolaos Harkiolakis and Mariliza Giarleli. The opening ceremony was held at the beginning of April in the presence of Archbishop Christodoulos. The society’s president, Fotis Dimitrakopoulos, professor of Byzantine literature at Athens University, presented an elegant little tome of 120 pages on the entire subject, under the title «Aghios Elisaios» (Ergo publications). An elegant compilation of images (by Fotis Dimitrakopoulos) that relates the chronicle of the church, it also contains its iconographic decoration and the service as published by Alexandros Moraitidis in 1925. The last text tells the life of the Prophet Elisha.

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