Chania Elafonisi Lighthouse

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Location: Elafonisi

The island of Elafonisi is surrounded by shallow waters and reef complexes that make it exceedingly dangerous for passing ships; it is no coincidence that sailors used to call it a “Ships’ Tomb”.

The construction of the lighthouse is associated with such a maritime tragedy. In 1907, the Austrian transatlantic steamer Imperatrix was shipwrecked here during a heavy storm, and 38 out of the 182 people on board the ship lost their lives. Had it not been for the Russian warship Khivinets, the monks of the Chrysoskalitissa Monastery and the altruism of the local residents, who threw themselves into the rough sea, the number of victims would surely have been even greater. The Imperatrix still lies on the seabed in front of the island’s cliffs.

To avoid similar incidents, a lighthouse was put up a few years later, in 1920. It was a tall edifice with as many as 144 steps, while a water tank, an oven and houses for the keepers were also built close by. In 1924, the Russian admiral Nikolay Nikolayevich Filosofov, who had been in command of the Khivinets back in 1907, was appointed as lighthouse keeper.

The original lighthouse was completely destroyed after being bombed by the German troops during the Second World War. Now, a smaller metal lighthouse has been erected in its place. Though it is nowhere near as charming as the old one, it is well worth a visit for its panoramic views, especially at sunset.



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