Centuries before people started traveling for leisure and relaxation, one of the main reasons they were moving was to pay respects at a holy place or an emblematic church or monastery. And the Greek land has always been a privileged place for Christianity and Orthodoxy.
During your vacation in Greece, you will soon realize that in both the mainland and islands of Greece, religion and faith exist everywhere. The monasteries and churches of Greece are very important pilgrimages for the whole world of Orthodoxy.
Halkidiki apart from the dazzling beaches and the wondrous places has also a huge religious interest. If you are interested in getting familiar with this side of tourism, then Halkidiki is the right place for you. From Mount Athos to spectacular churches, Halkidiki is a beautiful religious destination for people who truly wish to explore this whole other world right next to us.
Since the founding of Mt. Athos monasteries, Halkidiki became the most important religious center for Orthodox pilgrims.
Of course, when we talk about religious tourism in Halkidiki, the first thing that comes to mind is the monastery community of Mount Athos. It’s the only place in Greece that is fully devoted to the worship of God and praying. It is located on the third peninsula of Halkidiki, the Peninsula of Athos. It is the self-governing department of the Greek nation with wonderful natural spots, 20 solemn monasteries with really impressive architecture, and an amazing view of mount Athos. Visitors, here have the opportunity to experience a whole different way of life and thinking.
You have to keep in mind that, according to the unwritten law, only male visitors are allowed into the area.
CHURCH OF AGIOS DIMITRIOS
The church of Agios Dimitrios is located at the scenic public square of Afytos village in Kassandra, the second peninsula of Halkidiki. It was built in 1859 on the ruins of an early Christian church. The church was built with locally quarried stone and it is the largest Eastern Orthodox Christian church with a dome in Halkidiki. At the central aisle of the church, there is the icon of the Holy Mary of Afytos, which was created in the 14th century in Istanbul.
PALEOCHRISTIAN BASILICA OF SOPHRONIOS
The temple was first discovered due to excavations that started in 1981 near the chapel of Agios Georgios, close to Nikiti beach, Sithonia. It is the oldest early Christian church that was found in the region of Macedonia, it dated back to the first half of the 5th century A.D.
The Basilica is three-aisled with a wooden roof with a total length of 48m. During the excavation, an inscription was found referring to the name “Sophronios” as a bishop of the time and that’s why the temple was named “Basilica of Sophronios”.
AGIOS STEFANOS CHURCH
Arnaia is one of the most picturesque villages of the highland of Halkidiki with beautiful buildings and leafy nature all around. Its metropolitan temple hides a huge and impressive history which up to today still brings up findings and information about the area.
The church of Agios Stefanos was built in 1812 being three-aisle, while the bell tower was built in 1889. It has had huge historical importance since the Cosmas of Aetolia stopped there in 1775 to teach.
The temple was destroyed in a fire back in 1821 during the Revolution and again, for unknown reasons in 2005. The latest bushfire though, caused archaeologists to start excavations and thus new findings were discovered. It has been decided that to show the history of the church, those findings should not be removed and glass floors to be placed so visitors will be able to admire the history of the temple.
Of course, Halkidiki has plenty of other holy places to visit during your religious-style vacation apart from the above must-go spots. A plethora of beautiful surviving churches from the early Christian period all around the region, monasteries outside of Mt. Athos, and a variety of religious festivals and events expose the rich religious history of Halkidiki that awaits for you to discover!