Driving along the winding road that goes through the Mt Profitis Ilias, the third-highest in Rhodes, suddenly a vibrant plot of greenery with noble centuries-old olive trees, figs & plane trees and a small stone church appear. The scenery with the peak of the Mt. Prophet Ilias right behind the mysterious church is slightly surreal! What a beautiful spot!
A dozen of Byzantine churches are scattered around the countryside and mountains of Rhodes, but the 15th-century church of St. Nikolaos Foundoukli (also Fountoukli or Phountoukli) stands out with the single-room four apses stone building and unique mural paintings so one can assign it as one of the most important medieval structures on the island. Although the church is more than 500 years old (according to inscriptions, it was built in 1497/8), it is well enough preserved and taken care of by the local community of Dimilia village. The church is dedicated to the Saint Nikolaos (also Nicholas) who was a Christian bishop providing for the poor and sick.
The real allure lies inside the church on its walls. The whole interior is covered with elegantly painted decorations representing scenes of the Christological cycle, the four Evangelists ( Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke), saintly figures alongside decorative motifs of special artistic value.
In his doctoral dissertation dedicated to the church of St. Nikolaos, the Archaeologist Nikolaos Mastochristos has found that “among the portraits of the saints in a prominent place on either side of the western entrance of the church are the panels with the family members of donor. The elderly pansevastos logothetis Nicholaos Vardoanis with his spouse, Eudocia Stre(v)lou are depicted on the one side, whereas on the other in a heavenly whitish background their three kids, Mary, Michael, and the youngster George. The inscriptions that accompany the portraits inform us that the kids were victims of the plague.”
When you walk outside the church, you might want to look around the surroundings as well. There are two very old olive trees, probably some of the oldest olive trees on the island. Their trunks are more than 3 m (9.84 ft) diameter, and they still produce olives today. Some say that they could be as old as the church itself or even older.
There is a small park next to the church with a playground and a pick-nick area. Yes, you guessed it right, we love to come here on weekends to spend some time in nature. In summertime thought, no fire is allowed due to strong Meltemi winds and drought. But you can always refill your bottles with fresh drinking water from the spring opposite the church, it has the best water quality on the island! You will also see a nice floor mosaic with a deer couple – the symbol of Rhodes island.
If you have visited the church of St. Nikolaos Foundoukli, let us know in the comments below about your experience! If you find this information useful and interesting, make sure to share it or comment! We will highly appreciate it!
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Distance from Rhodes Town: 38 km (23.61 mi)
Distance from Eleousa Village: 2 km (1.24 mi)
Access: Only by Tour Coaches, Taxi, Private/rented cars & motorbikes