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Chora (5.2km) lies in a plateau at a height of 320m above sea level, invisible from the port and just below the water shed above the precipitous eastern side of the island. In the early morning and evening in the spring, clouds and mists often blow over the watershed strafing the buildings of the settlement. The town grew up during the 9th century ad, when insecurity from pirate attacks meant that the bay of Katapola was no longer viable for settlement and the population moved to this safer refuge. The original habitation clustered around the prong of rock which rises out of the plateau and formed the community’s for tress: like the rock of Petra on Lesbos, this is the tip of a narrow volcanic ‘plug’. It is crowned by the mediaeval Kastro, built in the 13th century by the Ghisi overlords. There is no space on the top of the rock-pinnacle for any thing more than a tower (south end), a cistern, and a tight enceinte of walls. (Access is by steep rock cut steps, through the church of Aghios Giorgios on the north side. Key for the gate is held either at the ‘Loza’ bar or at the ‘Kallisti’ patisserie in Chora.) The Kastro must always have functioned as a look-out tower and refuge rather than as a residence. Immediately below on the south face, and partially over hung by the rock into which it is built, is the chapel of the Kyra [E]Leousa (‘Our Lady of Mercy’), which has the appearance of a 10th or 11th century structure, but which may occupy the site of an even earlier church which would predate the development of the Chora. The main body of Chora extends along two parallel winding thoroughfares between the open square at the western entrance of the town in the ‘Kato Geitonia’ (Low er Town) and the delightful ‘Plateaki’ in the ‘Apano Geitonia’ (Upper Town). ‘Plateaki’ is surrounded by churches and chapels and has several levels: at its centre, the undulating roofs of three contiguous chapels (St Thomas, St Thalelaios and the Holy Cross, from north to south) seem to grow from the ground. Fifty metres to the west of here along the principal artery is a substantial 17th century town-house with courtyard, known as the ‘Gavras Mansion’ which houses the island’s Archaeology Museum. (In high season, generally open daily 8.30–3, except Mon; otherwise by appointment with the custodian, Giorgios Vlavianos, T. 697 3396861.) Many of the first items to be found on Amorgos are now in the museum on Syros, and many of the finest pieces are exhibited in Athens: mate rial of interest, but of less importance, has been collected here.
The attractive downstairs courtyard exhibits carved stelai, inscribed pedestals, a marble standard for liquid measures for the market place (on shelf to right), and fragments of Hellenistic and Roman sculpture. Of particular note is the reassembled clay, Archaic burial urn, complete with its lid and small decorative bands on the exterior; the skeleton and grave gifts are preserved inside.
The upper level contains cases with pre-historic material, decorated vases and bronze items from graves, including a fibia and a ring. Of interest is the fragment of the shoulders and hair of an Archaic Kouros, showing small traces of pigmentation; the colour appears to have been added substantially later than the date of the carving. There is a fine 5th century bc grave stele with a full-standing figure relief, and several finely carved finials and anthemia from the roofs of Archaic and Classical buildings. Two cases contain grave finds from 4th century bc Minoa: terracotta figurines, relief-dec orated bowls together with the moulds for their production, and items of jewellery—ear rings and a pendant in gold.
An attractive feature of many of the buildings and churches in the same street and around the Loza (‘Loggia’) Square just to the north is that they incorporate ancient anthemia and marble stelai with carved funerary reliefs in their walls or gateways. A short distance northeast of the Plateaki, on the edge of an area of ruined houses to the right of the path, is the entrance into the mediaeval cistern of Chora, or ‘Kato Lakkos’, created probably at the time that the Kastro was built: it is a vaulted chamber, part excavated, part constructed, which still holds water to this day. Across the area of ruined buildings beyond stands the whitewashed complex of the monastery of Christos Photodotis, a dependency of the Chozoviotissa Monastery.
Amorgos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.