Roadside Iconostasis

On the side of nearly every narrow, windy road in Greece you will see little boxes styled as mini houses. They can be simple metal boxes on stilts or concrete (or stone) structures set on substantial plinths. They are usually found at precipitous points and dangerous bends. They all have crosses on top their pitched roofs and little glass doors in front. If you stop and have a peek inside you will often see an icon, a candle and sometimes flowers (plastic or real), photographs or insence holders. These are roadside iconostaseis.

They are generally set up at places of danger, where fatal accidents or close calls have occurred. They serve both as a memorial and as a warning to travellers. This rather substantial iconostasis sits on the side of the winding road above the fortified Byzantine monastery of Nea Moni, high in the hills on the island of Chios. In the photo above, you can see the monastery walls and buildings behind. Looking the other way,  in the photo below, you can glimpse traces of the winding road from the coast. And in the distance – 7km away – is the coast of Turkey just visible in the haze.

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  1. Nice write-up about the roadside shrines. We see way too many kandilakia on the country roads in Peloponnese. It’s nice to know they don’t always mean a fatality occurred at the site.


    • So many of them do signify a place of an accident, but you are right, some are simply there. One iconostasis which I ran across, shaped like a mini domed church, was constructed because someone had a dream and was directed to build it. A colleague of mine also wrote an interesting article on how many old ones in the hills of Southwest Crete are markers along old road/pathways from village to village.

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