Church of Agios Ioannis in Kastri
Agios Ioannis (St. John) in Kastri is the Mamma Mia church and one of the most famous sights in Skopelos. It is perched on the top of a rock that juts out into the ocean in the northeastern part of the island some 100 meters high. There are 198 steps carved into the rock leading to the top. Once you have ascended the stone steps you can enjoy scenic views of the surrounding coastline all the way out to nearby Alonissos and on a clear day even to Mount Pelion. The rock is linked to the rest of the island through a narrow path. Right beneath the rock, is a small secluded beach with incredible emerald water which gets very busy in summer.
There are stories and legends linked with this charming little church. According to one of them, a fisherman from Glossa, while fishing in the waters surrounding the cliff, saw a mysterious light glistening on top of the rock. This was repeated several times and one day he had a dream in which a woman told him that there was an icon on top of the rock. He climbed up, found the icon and took it to a nearby chapel. However, the next day the icon was not in the chapel but in the place where was originally found. Every time he would take the icon to the chapel, the icon would return. As a result, he built a chapel on the site to house the icon. The interior of the church has beautiful icons and old ecclesiastical items to see. There is also an altar where you can light a candle. In the courtyard there are benches where you can rest and gaze across the horizon.
The charming little church gained huge reputation after the Hollywood movie Mamma Mia was released, back in 2007. Many of the scenes from the wedding were actually filmed there. It should be noted that while the exterior of the church was used in Mamma Mia, the scenes inside the church were shot at a film studio in Hollywood.
Getting to the church means first going down a steep hill and then climbing up the 198 steps. There are metal handrails to help you with the climb, but make sure you wear snickers and not flip flops. Getting there is not so easy! The road is narrow and steep, so please take your time to get there if you’re driving yourself. There is no bus service, but you can take the local bus and get off two stops prior to Glossa and then walk down the road. This location is an absolutely must visit on your trip to Skopelos. Not only because it is one of the island’s most popular landmarks but also because of the spectacular views it offers.