Little Church Chronicles / Profitis Ilias

Profitis Ilias
A man harvests olives in the hills east of Magganitis.

No matter which direction you walk from Magganitis, you will eventually reach a small church. This hike starts a short distance past Apostolis Restaurant, beginning with a staircase leading up from the easternmost houses of the village.

Profitis Ilias Hike

Profitis Ilias Trail
Not surprisingly, the trail is laden with boulders.
Profitis Ilias Hike
Magganitis is quickly disappearing from view.
Profitis Ilias Trail
There are some micro-forests along part of the trail.

Profitis Ilias Trail

Profitis Ilias Trail Flowers

Acorn Path
Some parts of the trail are completely blanketed with acorns.

Curly Acorns

Alongside pine and olives, oak stands dominate the landscape here. In ancient times, the word for “oak” in Greek – “dris” – was also the word for ‘tree.’

Prickly Acorn
This is the most common type of acorn to see in the area around Magganitis. It likely belongs to a type of Kermes or Palestine oak.

Kermes oak varieties are much more tolerant of drought conditions than Holm oaks, and will take over areas where Holm oaks struggle to grow. They can easily thrive on sea cliffs and windy environments such as the area around Magganitis, but only at lower elevations, and not too far inland.

Round Acorns
Not as common here, the Lebanon Oak is a deciduous oak and loses its leaves in the winter.
Lavender
The wild lavender has all started to bloom again.
Profitis Ilias Last view of sea
This is the last view of the sea as the trail turns inland.

Profitas Ilias Trail

Ikaria remains remote, rugged, and undeveloped, with very little effort put toward tourist infrastructure. With this comes several frustrations, but also the very large reward of Ikaria’s largely untouched wilds  – a walker’s paradise. Especially in the winter, it is possible to wander all day and see very few people and almost nothing man-made.

Profitis Ilias Trail
The top of the Atheras Ridge seems like just a few steps away.

Rock formations

Rock Garden

Tree Roots

Profitis Ilias
Finally, I catch sight of the small church across the canyon, barely visible on the backdrop of Ikaria’s towering cliffs.

This little church lies in an area so isolated that a crime could occur in broad daylight and there wouldn’t be a single witness.

Profitis Ilias
A bit of a walk over difficult terrain remains in order to reach the church, and it is invisible until I am standing here on the hillside above it.

Profitis Ilias

It may seem perplexing to outsiders why the Greeks have gone to such an effort to construct so many little churches in inaccessible places.

Throughout Greece, some of these churches are built on sites where miracles are thought to have occurred. But especially on islands, where people depended on the dangerous sea for their living, many churches were built in dedication to revered teachers or saints whom villagers believed would offer protection for their families.

Profitis Ilias

This little church, Profitis Ilias, is dedicated to the prophet Elijah. According to Greek folklore, Profitis Ilias, who suffered much in his seafaring life, eventually left his quiet fishing village in order to find a place where people knew nothing of the sea or ships, and where he could do good beyond his known reality. He carried an oar with him for days as he traveled inland, seeking a place where his oar was not recognized as an oar, but instead as a simple stick. And he asked people as he traveled “Do you know what this is?” to which people kept answering “An oar.” Finally he came to a place far from the sea, high up on a mountaintop, where the oar was not recognized, and there he settled and built a church.

Profitis Ilias Bell

For this reason, chapels dedicated to Profitis Ilias are often built on the sides or tops of mountains, inland and away from the sea.

Profitis Ilias

Profitis Ilias Interior
Interior of Profitis Ilias
Circular Foundation
The remains of a circular foundation in the hills.

Near the church, ruins of stone shelters are scattered over the hillside. They are all in various stages of dilapidation.

Stone Shelter
This old shelter used some pre-existing layers of metamorphic rock as a natural wall on one side.

Profitis Ilias Stone Structure

Profitis Ilias Stone Structure

Stone Structure Exterior

Stone Oven

Profitis Elias
As I set back for the village, a storm moves in.

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Ilias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Profitis Elias Trail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.