The Roadside Memorials of Crete

Key words
roadside memorials, ikonostasia, commemoration, funeral and memorial rites
Dmitriy V. Gromov
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (495) 938-17-44
32a, Leninskii av., Moscow, 119334, Russian Federation
DSc of History, Leading Researcher, N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Date of publication

The article was written in accordance with the research plan of the N. N. Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences.


This article describes the practice of installing roadside memorials in Crete (Greece). Similar memorials exist in many countries of the world, but the functions of Greek ones are unusual. In the scholarly literature spontaneous memorials are usually considered as performative objects making two types of statements: commemorative (associated with remembrance of the dead) and socio-political (associated with the problems that caused the death). The case of Greece presents another type of statement — ​religious. Roadside memorials are also chapels, objects suitable for religious practice. They are referred to as religious objects: iconostasia, less often ekklisakia, proskinitaria, kandilakia. Roadside memorials contain religious symbols (icons, images of a cross, etc.) and serve as places for religious practice (memorial prayers, keeping a fire burning, etc.); externally they are indistinguishable from Orthodox chapels. Roadside memorials are a special case of the sacralization of road space. Crete’s roads feature many small churches and the high degree of sacralization of Greek road space (including commemoration) correlates with a high level of religiosity. Nowhere else in the world is there such a high density of roadside memorials (approximately one per 600 meters). The unique tradition of installing “vow marks” or “tokens” (obetnye znaki) erected in gratitude for rescue in accidents is also widespread. Such practices may have been historically known elsewhere in the world but are now very rare.


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For citation

Gromov D. V. The Roadside Memorials of Crete. Traditional Culture. 2022. Vol. 23. No. 1. Pp. 113–126. In Russian.