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St. Nikolaos Foundoukli Church, Rhodes

As you embark on the serpentine journey through the sinuous road that meanders amidst the embrace of Mount Profitis Ilias, Rhodes' third-highest summit, an enchanting spectacle unveils itself. A resplendent tapestry of emerald unfolds, adorned with majestic olive trees whose gnarled limbs tell tales of centuries past, intermingled with the graceful presence of ancient figs and stately plane trees. Amidst this verdant sanctuary stands a petite stone chapel, a humble sentinel of the ages.

As your eyes embrace this ethereal vista, the commanding presence of Mount Prophet Elias stands tall in the distance, casting an imposing silhouette against the sky. The landscape unfolds with a dreamlike quality, where the forces of nature and the whispers of history entwine in perfect harmony. In this unspoiled realm, the true spirit of this extraordinary location reveals itself, inviting contemplation and awe.

In the serene expanses of Rhodes' countryside, cradled by the rugged embrace of its mountains, a collection of Byzantine churches carries whispered tales of centuries long past. Amidst these modest sanctuaries, one shines like a radiant jewel, an embodiment of history and devotion. Behold the 15th-century Church of St. Nikolaos Foundoukli, also known as Fountoukli or Phountoukli, a remarkable masterpiece.

This unique structure, a relic of a bygone era, reveals itself as a solitary stone marvel, adorned with the elegance of four magnificent apses. It stands as a testament to Rhodes' enduring medieval heritage, defying the relentless passage of time. For over five centuries (its inscriptions bearing witness to its birth in 1497/8), this venerable church has remained steadfast and impeccably preserved, a tribute to the unwavering care of the local community of Dimilia village.

The church's devotion is pledged to Saint Nikolaos, a Christian bishop renowned for his compassionate ministry to the impoverished and ailing. It is in this sacred place, amidst its ancient stones and the whispers of its mural paintings, that one can trace the delicate tapestry of Rhodes' history, woven with threads of faith and resilience.

The true magic resides within the sacred confines of the church, where the walls themselves echo tales of unwavering devotion and masterful artistry. Upon entering this hallowed sanctuary, your senses are enveloped in a mesmerizing tapestry of exquisitely painted embellishments, revealing a profound narrative.

Here, within these reverent walls, unfolds the Christological cycle - a visual symphony of divine stories. The Four Evangelists - Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke - stand as steadfast sentinels, their radiant presence a testament to the enduring legacy of faith. Alongside them, saintly figures materialize as celestial companions, their lives and virtuous deeds rendered in vivid hues.

Yet, it is not solely the stories of faith that grace these sacred walls. Intricate patterns and motifs, testament to the skilled hands of artisans, interlace with the narratives. Every brushstroke, every meticulously detailed design resonates with artistic brilliance, further enhancing the church's ethereal allure.

In a scholarly journey dedicated to the sacred sanctuary of St. Nikolaos, the esteemed Archaeologist Nikolaos Mastochristos embarks on a profound exploration of history's depths. Within the venerable confines of this ancient haven, a momentous revelation awaits. As one embarks on this intellectual pilgrimage, the church's western entrance reveals a treasure of immense significance - panels graced with the visages of saints. Among them, in a place of great prominence, one encounters the likenesses of the devout patron's family. Here, within this testament to faith and unwavering devotion, the venerable pansevastos Logothetis Nicholaos Vardoanis and his beloved spouse, Eudocia Stre(v)lou, are forever enshrined. They stand as ethereal sentinels, their gazes from the canvas imbued with an enduring aura of reverence.

And on the opposite side, framed against a heavenly canvas bathed in celestial light, the cherished trio of their offspring emerges. Mary, Michael, and the youngest, George, grace this ethereal scene. Inscriptions, etched into the annals of time, reveal a poignant truth - the children, Mary, Michael, and young George, were claimed by the relentless grip of the plague, their lives cut short by an implacable adversary.

In this revelation, history gently unfurls its delicate tapestry, weaving together the threads of family, faith, and the enigmatic mysteries of life and loss. Stepping beyond the consecrated threshold of the church, one is drawn to explore the enchanting surroundings that cradle this sacred sanctuary. Here, amid the quiet whispers of history, two ancient sentinels stand vigilant - weathered olive trees, stoic witnesses to the passage of ages.

These stoic giants, perhaps among the eldest on the island, bear witness to the passage of time. Their majestic trunks, each measuring more than three meters in diameter (9.84 feet), evoke a profound sense of reverence. Like guardians of an eternal legacy, they continue to bestow their precious bounty upon the world—olives that are, to this day, harvested and cherished.

Legends abound, whispering secrets through the ages. Some say that these arboreal ancients are as ancient as the very church they shade, perhaps even predating its hallowed stones. In their enduring presence, they offer a silent testimony to the enduring vitality of this sacred ground.

Adjacent to the church lies a small park, a tranquil oasis with a playground and a serene picnic area. It's a cherished weekend retreat, where visitors seek solace in the embrace of nature. Yet, in the scorching grip of summer, when the relentless Meltemi winds sweep through, open fires are forbidden due to the parched conditions. However, a crystal-clear spring, nestled across from the church, offers the island's purest drinking water. It's a source of refreshment and sustenance, a testament to the island's bounty.

St. Nikolaos Foundoukli Church © Rhodes Guide /

St. Nikolaos Foundoukli Church © Rhodes Guide /

St. Nikolaos Foundoukli Church © Rhodes Guide /

St. Nikolaos Foundoukli Church © Rhodes Guide /

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