Harmless art or satanic figure? Greek statue provokes outrage among Christians

A controversial new sculpture of a naked, red, male figure with wings in Greece has provoked protests from Christians who claim it is satanic and even an agent of black magic.

The 'Phylax' statue by Kostas Georgiou has been the target of protests.Paleo Faliro Municipality

Protesters have vandalised the Phylax, named after the ancient Greek work meaning watcher, guardian or protector since it was erected on December 5 in the Athens suburb of Palaio Faliro and unveiled by the local municipality as the suburb's 'guardian angel'.

Parish priest Patapios Argyros wrote in an open letter to the mayor: 'The sculpture is a demon and a soldier of Satan that, instead of being honoured, must be despised as blasphemous to the Holy Trinity.

'It is an affront to Orthodoxy and the Christian faith,' the priest continued. 

He led a procession of around 100 parishioners to protest at the statue, sprinkling it with holy water in an exorcism ritual. 

According to the website 'keep talking Greece', the structure was donated by a shipping family, the Martinos, but it has invoked anger among some locals who have thrown white paint over it and attempted to cut the power that leads to it being illuminated at night.

The artist who created it, Kostis Georgiou, appears to be pleased that his work has created controversy, claiming that art should not leave people indifferent. He told Skai TV: 'Who says that the colour of Satan is red? There are angels with red wings and red hair.' Of his critics, Georgiou said: 'It is supposed that the opponents are Christians but their soul is anti-Christian.'

Bizarrely, the local municipality sought to calm the tensions by issuing a statement saying that the Phylax is not a guardian angel in terms of the Christian tradition.

'The viewer's contact with the work of art is determined according to the codes everyone has about his life, his sensitivity, his knowledge of art as well as many other subjective factors,' the statement said, adding that 'each work in itself is autonomous, has its own language and can be interpreted according to everyone's standards. This is also the mission of an artwork, it has many approach gates and not a single one.'