At the top of the hill, at eastern end of the Potami beach, dominates the chapel of Ai Nikolas, whose the special architecture, the panoramic view and the romantic sunsets that it’s it offers from its courtyard, make it one of the most idyllic and photographed corners of the island.
The chapel was founded in autumn ’69 and was completed in 30 of May 1970.
It is dedicated to Agios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) and celebrates the dormition of the Saint on December 6th.
According the orthodox church, Saint Nicholas is patron saint of the Hellenic Navy and of all sailors, the “Lord of the Sea”. Often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon.
The timeline of creation
During the period when priest Giannis Chrysoulis was vicar in the parish of saint John to the Port of Karlovasos (1960s – 1970s), he had the desire to build a small church in honor of Agios Nikolaos (=Saint Nicholas, patron of navy), because as priest Giannis was saying “we don’t have Ai Nikolas church here in the Port and we miss it”, “after all, we have a port! and a port without Ai Nikolas is impossible”, added the Harbor Master Manolis Sgourakis, an ardent supporter of priest Giannis wish.
Priest Giannis Chrysoulis, had ready plan , he wanted a small church (due to lack of money), in Byzantine style, to be built near lighthouse, at west of the port, financed by faithfuls donations and a part from Samian metropolitan, with voluntary work of parishioners, while Harbor Master Manolis Sgourakis would undertake the administrative procedures and financial management. But what was missing, was the architect who would design the church, uncharitably of course, since the budget was meager.
The solution to the problem was found at the person Giorgos Korfiatis, a reserve lieutenant and Architect graduate since 1967, who in 1968 assumed command of a small echelon of 6th M.O.M.A. (= army units that built road construction projects), based at the port of Karlovasi, and did road opening works, from the Port to Potami beach.
The priest Giannis Chrysoulis and the Harbor Master, after meeting Giorgos Korfiatis, gaining mutual sympathy and trust, offered him to design the church. G. Korfiatis liked the proposal, who saw it as a good sign that his first study, the first building of his career, should be the house of a Saint. So he gave his promise to the priest Giannis that he will design the chapel.
The work of G.Korfiatis was getting more and more crowded, since the small team that he commanded, in addition to the opening of the road from Limani to Potami, had also undertaken the opening of the road to the villages Pagondas > Spatharei > Skureika, but he did not forget the promise he had gave to the priest Giannis, that’s why he was trying to come up with the shape that the small “house” of Saint Nicholas will have, observing, photographing and studying the chapels of Samos.
Finally the idea “came at the sea!”, during a ship trip of G.Korfiatis from Samos to Piraeus, when the ship was sailing outside Tinos island (his origin place) and seeing the houses, chapels, monasteries, mills , the pigeon houses, like white little children’s toys, scattered over the bare winter landscape.
Between the islands of Tinos and Syros, with Panagia Evangelistria of Tinos cherch to the east and Agios Nikolaos of Syros cherch to the west, George Korfiatis began to compose the small chapel of Saint Nickolaos.
– The chapels at Tinos island are white, just like Samos island, so Saint Nickolaos chapel will be also white…,
– It should not be just a box, it should have something special, like a parabolic curve for top view, like the parables of Christ…,
– It should not have roof tiles, because the strong north wind will take them, … a small dome should be placed in their place, like the heavenly dome and on its western side there should be a covered courtyard,
– It should be easy to build, even if it is not Byzantine style, but not classical either…, it should have something like island style,
– To have a high bell tower, to show the sky …, as if it is the raised hand of Saint Nicholas holding a cross,
– … and put a sail on it, so that it resembles a ship !!!, in case Saint Nicholas wants to travel the sea, to save ships that are in danger.
With these thoughts and concerns, G.Korfiatis had ready the first sketches of Ai Nikolas chapel till the ship approach Sounion, what remained was to complete the study, prepare the final plans and build a model to present it to the priest Giannis and Port Master.
When G.Korfiatis returned to Samos island, he began working intensively on Saint Nicholas chapel plans,at the limited free time that he had. After a few months, he had completed the plans, created mockup and also made a collage of photos, to show the chapel in its natural environment. When he presented them to Preast Giannis and the commissioners of the parish, they were all surprised, not only because they found that the plans owere progressing, but they were pleasantly surprised by the unknown to them technique of mockup and collage where they saw their little church completed , in the natural environment and not only plans in paper.
The commissioners of the parish, with president the priest Giannis Chrysoulis and members Manolis Sgourakis (port master), George Tzoanos, George Flamourakis, Andreas Agadakis, Dimitris & Panagiotis Kontaras and Costas Karagiannis, unanimously approved the plans of the church, and mobilized immediately, in every direction, for funding, material donations and volunteer work to build the church. At the same time, the port master (Manolis Sgourakis), visited the Samian Metropolitan Panteleimon Chrysofakis and presented him with the mockup, collage and the plans, in order to get his approval for the construction of the church and the holding of a fundraiser, who was impressed, and approved them immediately.
Everything had taken its course until a serious obstacle was presented by Hellenic Navy General Staff, which informed the Harbor Master Manolis Sgourakis that nothing can be built at a distance, less than 300 meters from the lighthouse. Shocked by the unexpected development, everyone started looking for new location of the Saint Nikolas church.
By the spring of 1969, the road from the port to Potami beach, had overcome the large, difficult rock above the Harbor and was moving towards to Potami beach. At the summer they dug the verdant slope at the last bend before Potami beach and next to the bend, for the needs of the road opening, the crew had shaped a plateau like a balcony, with a magnificent view of the beach and the vastness of the sea. When priest Giannis and the port master were there, they knew that they had found the new ideal location of saint Nicholas chapel. They mobilized immediately and found the owners of the place, who were two sisters, lived out of Samos, originally from Karlovasi, who finally they granted the rights to build Saint Nicholas chapel.
At the autumn of 1969, after all problems had been solved and almost all the money had been collected for the construction of the church, the excavation of the foundations began and the concrete of the base of the church was poured. The works continued with the donated labor of craftsmen, workers and the uninterrupted supervision of the Harbor Master Manolis Sgourakis. On May 30, 1970, in a brief procedure, the Harbor Master Manolis Sgourakis handed over to priest Giannis Chrysoulis the keys, together with the treasury and the construction bills of the church.
After all, Saint Nicholas had found his home at Potami, as priest Giannis Chrysoulis wished and tried hard to get it, with the undivided help of the port master Manolis Sgourakis and the Architect George Korfiatis.
- Foundation : founded autumn 1969, completed May 30, 1970
- Architect : George Korfiatis
- Celebration : December 6th
- Altitude : ≈ 30 m
- Condition : excellent (last renovation 10/2020)
- Administratively : chapel
- By car, from Karlovasi Port, heading west, after 1.9 km (route here)
- By walking route from Karlovasi Port to Paleo Karlovasi and then to Ai Nikolaos chapel at Potami (route here)
- When you visit the chapel of Ai Nikola, also visit Potami beach, the “waterfalls” (1 Km on foot, route here), the Genoese Castle, the church of Metamorphosis, which is the oldest church on the island.
- Also visit Mikro Seitani and Megalo Seitani beaches (hiking only route here)
- Hiking routes you can do at Potami area:
> route #2 the small round of Potami
> route #3 the big round Potami.