Saved By Lightning

This week I’m featuring another tiny church – this time back in Athens.  It’s located on Philopappos Hill facing the Acropolis, and everything about this church seems full of contradictions … even the spelling of its name.

While the sign outside clearly calls it Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris, Google searches result in other variations … the most common being Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 9

Some sources say its history dates back to the 9th century, others say the 12th.  Some indicate that “loubardiaris” refers to “cannon”, others say “bombardier”.

No matter how you slice it, this is an interesting little structure wrapped in a legend that tells of a miracle.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 8

The miracle dates back to approximately 1658 – or maybe not, depending on the source of the story.

The one thing that is clear in all the stories is that there was an attempt to blow up the church, and the people seeking refuge inside it, using a cannon from the top of the Acropolis.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 7

From the title of this post, you can probably guess what happened.

Lightning struck the gunner, or the Commander, or the gunpowder shed, perhaps all 3 of them … depending on what story you read.  At any rate, he, or them, were killed and the church was saved.

IT WAS A MIRACLE! – or so the legend says – and it was thus named “Church of the Cannon“, or something like that.  If I’m being vague I’m blaming it on the various storytellers.

I guess that’s to be expected after 350ish years and various translations from Greek.  Everyone’s familiar with the game of whispering a phrase from person to person around a room.  It doesn’t take long for the sentence to morph wildly from the original.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 5
Behind the red curtain was a small dark closet-like room with a prayer altar.  

A major restoration of the church occurred in the 1950s that uncovered illustrations going back to the 16th century.

I don’t know how old the doors are, but they were unusual enough to capture my attention before we moved on.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 6

This tiny church and its surrounding courtyard was a quiet, cool oasis after a hot and sweaty climb up the hill.  I’m not surprised it has become a popular place for weddings.  It seems like a good omen to start off your married life on the site of a reported miracle.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris 3

This post has been brought to you by Thursday Doors – a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.


I would be remiss if I didn’t include a photo of one of the outside walls.  I’m reasonably confident this is a relatively new addition, but I love the texture and detail design.

Ayios Demetrios Loubardiaris-15



  1. Joanne ~ We also like the smaller churches or temples because they tell the tale of small communities coming together over generations to worship together. These little jewels are often more attractive than the larger cathedrals. Love the blue fresco type paintings on the wall.
    Peta & Ben


    • At the risk of getting on a soapbox and ranting, my issue with the big churches of any denomination is the reality that while so much money was being invested in an ostentatious building, the people in the community were often very poor.


  2. This is easily my favorite doors post this week. So far, anyway, lol. I love that red door among the old painted walls. I mean, OH MY GOD do I love that. Jaw dropping gorgeous to me. And the outer wall? Beautiful. Wonderful choices, Joanne.


    • Thanks Joey. There are some pictures we take that not only remind us of the occasion, but can re-trigger everything about that moment – the heat of the sun, how we felt, etc. This little church is one of them for me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean though. I’ve had some places where I’ve tried to research them and feel like I can’t find an accurate set of information to share. But you’re right…at some point we have to say it doesn’t matter or else we’ll spend way too much time at it. lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful story! and that outside wall! simply fabulous!
    I love visiting churches – there is just something about seeing the triptychs, paintings & sculptures all in situ, and the vibe & ambience is often so powerful!


    • Yes, there is something poetically Greek about lightning striking the gunner.
      Wouldn’t the world be a far more interesting – and kinder – place if lightning would suddenly strike out of the sky to tell you that you’re in the wrong?


  4. That’s a beautiful church with a fabulous miracle behind it. I love the doors and everything about this place and would certainly consider it for a wedding or simply a place to visit as you and Gilles did. It’s a pretty place for rest, prayer and contemplation.


    • I know I’ve said it before, but travelling off-season had some huge advantages – like visiting this place quietly with almost no one else around.
      I’m sure the ambiance would have been quite different with hordes of noisy tourists competing for space.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the colorful red curtain and altar.

    This church reminds me of one of my former careers. I worked at a circus as one of those guys who gets fired from a cannon. It was a big loss to them when I quit, because they never found someone of my caliber again.


    • When I see things like that wall, it makes me wish I had an artistic side that could visualize something uniquely beautiful like this.

      I agree that the quirky little churches seem to have so much more character and the hint of a story.


  6. how fun… and I do know how stories change when they go around a room – and that brown door looks like it has movie reels embedded – but way too early for that
    lastly – you just never know when lightening will crash….


  7. I love tiny churches with BIG histories, and this one is exactly that. Interesting back story and great photos. I especially like the one with the red curtain!


    • The stories are often what makes something interesting, and it’s wonderful that the history of this little place has been remembered (sort of). I like your expression “big history”. It fits!!


  8. All the waffling on the history made me laugh, Joanne. Stories change through time, but it’s funny in this case how they all ended up reported in contradicting references. It is a cute place, and those paintings on the inside are amazing. I love the construction of the wall too. I wonder why someone was shooting a cannon at it?


  9. Oh, Joanne, I adore the photo with the red curtains and the painted panels. What a promise of a beautiful, magical, mystical space inside. Have you ever considered selling your photos? I’d love to buy a copy of that one to use in a collage.
    Also – great story or variations of a story or multiple stories or….


  10. Love this history lesson, first glance I thought the cross on the roof was a medieval sword that somehow got embedded in the roof…now that would have been quite an interesting story…but the lightening and cannon are good too. 🙂


  11. What a fabulous place to get married in, Joanne. I can only imagine how thrilling it must have been to discover hidden art when working on the building. I really like those walls in the last shot, even if they are more recent additions.


  12. From the building style it’s hard to tell the date when it was first built, since I see more modern as well as older pieces, but I know one thing, the painting next to the door, dates back earlier that than 1600, unless it’s a copy (would be hard to judge from a photo). Also, the wall murals next to the red curtain look much older.You found a historic treasure, Joanne!


    • There’s no question that this little church has seen some restorative work – especially on the outside with the creation of a stone patio and walkway. The murals though look very old. I was surprised that there didn’t appear to be anyone there ‘guarding’ the interior. I don’t use a flash, but I’m sure others do – that can’t be good for these old illustrations.


  13. Those are some fine doors indeed. The story morphing as it goes around the room is such a good example of why so many religious stories/legends are not relatable to the average person living a modern life.
    Great post Joanne 🙂


    • The legends and the reports of miracles is what makes a place memorable, but Gilles, aka Mr Science, just rolls his eyes. He definitely doesn’t relate to any of it 😉

      You and I could have a long discussion agreeing with each other on our opinions of religious stories 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonder pictures. I’m giving the various storytellers a pass. I’m trying to research my ancestors and no one agrees on what happened 70 years ago! This was a very long whisper down the alley!


    • hahahaha! omg – that is so true! Throw in the vagaries of translation and it gets worse.
      Once I got over my initial irritation with all the inconsistencies, the story became easier to write.

      Your experience trying to research your ancestors, reminds of my dad talking about WWII. It seemed every version of his stories were different – he was a signalman, a driver, a translator, a gun instructor … we always assumed he was just telling tall tales.
      After he passed away, I started to do some digging into his war years, and it turns all of them were true – duties were kind of fluid and it just depended on where he was at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Joanne, I’ve been a technical writer/editor for more years than I should admit… so I’m chuckling in commiseration about all the conflicting details and spellings. I would have pulled out every hair on my head. But you made a delightful post of it, and the photos are gorgeous. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can imagine your experiences trying to sort out conflicting information … and anything that’s been translated automatically has another layer of potential misinterpretation.

      At first it really frustrated me … until I decided to work with it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Stunning pictures! I loved the story, too.

    Joanne, I wanted to let you know that my website’s changed. Let me know if you want the addy.


  17. Gorgeous photos and a lovely story to go with them. These small Greek churches you visited contrast dramatically with the large soulless American churches in this area. Here we have movie theatre seats and screens, but not one ounce of quirky Christian character. Pity that, I say.


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