The Sanctuary of Apollo “AIGLETES” and the Monastery of Zoodochos Pigi

The monastery of the Panaghia Kalamiotissa, dedicated to the Zoodochos Pigi or Virgin as ‘Life-giving Source’, which stands on the ridge of the neck of land joining the dramatic rock of Kalamos to the island, has become once again home to nine monks after a recent period of aban donment. It occupies the site of the ancient Sanctuary of Apollo Anaphaios or Aigletes, one of the most singu lar and interesting in the Cyclades. There are impressive remains of the temple and its sacred precinct, standing to a considerable height; many of the marble blocks also preserve clear inscriptions.

Origins of the cult
The legendary origins of the sanctuary are very ancient: it is said to have been founded by Jason and the Argonauts in gratitude to Apollo who saved them from a terrible storm. Jason in desperation besought Apollo to appear and to help them. Apollonius (Argonautica, IV, 1694 ff.) relates it thus:

   Then, [Apollo] son of Leto, quick to hear, you descend ed from heaven to the Melantian islets lying in the sea. Then alighting on one of the twin peaks, you raised up your golden bow with your right hand; and the bow flashed a dazzling light all about. And before [the Argonauts] appeared a small island of the Sporades, opposite tiny Hippouris, and there they cast anchor and stayed.

The Melantioi Petrai are the two humped islets visible to the southeast of the island, and Hippouris the reef between them and Anaphi. The burst of light, ‘αἴγλη’, gives the divinity here the epithet Aigletes; and the name of the island derives from ‘ἀναφαίνειν’, to ‘bring to light’ or ‘make appar ent’, both associations with the Jason legend. Apollonius adds that the Argonauts had nothing more than water to sacrifice in thanks to the god: as they did this, the Phaeacian servant-women who accompanied them, laughed at their actions, eliciting an exchange of jokes and friendly taunts between the men and women. It thereafter became a tradition on the island to stage a trading of insults and jokes whenever they sacrificed to Apollo Aigletes.

The buildings
The marble used here, which is of local origin, has unusual characteristics: it has a high quartz content which causes it to glint and catch the light, but which also makes it subject to corrosion by salt, as can be seen on the north side of the sanctuary retaining wall. Around the entrance are fluted column fragments and other architectural elements. To the right-hand side of the doorway an excellently preserved stretch of wall, in courses of beautifully cut marble, snugly fitted over the irregular rock outcrops of the terrain, rises over three metres high: this is the west wall of the main temple’s naos . The masonry dates the construction to the 4th century bc. To either side of the entrance are two blocks carved with ancient inscriptions in fine Hellenistic lettering, amongst many later, modern graffiti; there are other ancient inscriptions just beyond.
   To the right on entering is the enclosed naos of the temple, constructed in regular blocks of honey-veined marble. Walls of such height and preservation are a rare and beautiful sight. The design is unusual: the ancient building would appear to have been prostyle in plan, with a porch only on the front. This led into a pronaos, which was curiously divided into two enclosed rooms to either side of the entrance. A door, whose architrave-block bears a long Hellenistic inscription, then led from the pronaos into the naos . The former refectory of the monastery, now disused, was built inside it. The present catholicon of the monastery, standing to the east, is modern, but it is built on ancient foundations, a couple of courses of which survive. Extending to the east and north of the monastery enclosure are the ponderous walls built up from below to support the platform of the sanctuary, their corners meticulously drafted, as always. The presence of several other stylobates of buildings indicate that there were altars and temples to other deities within the same precinct: inscriptions refer to the cult also of Artemis, Aphrodite, Asklepios and of Zeus Ktesios. For so small an island this was an important sanctuary. The prevalence of Hellenistic building suggests that the island enjoyed particular prosperity in this period, probably in conjunction with the Ptolemaic presence at Ancient Thera, directly across the water to the west.

   The temples would have looked out east over Chalara Bay, where two spikes of strikingly green rock rise from the sea, indicating a presence of iron ore. From the monastery, it is a seventy five-minute climb by an often precipitous path up to the summit of the Kalamos rock, at 460m. This imposing natural phenomenon rises almost sheer on its south face, and only marginally more gently to the north, giving it the form of a wave, moving south, about to break: the effect is enhanced by the spumes of cloud that often strafe its summit. Low down on its north slope is the Drakospilia, a large cave with stalactite formations. In a rockeyrie, a short distance below and west of the summit, sits the church of the Panaghia Pano Kalamiotissa, called [A]pano to distinguish it from the monastery (Kato) below. This courageous site, frequently in the full force of the wind, was a small monastic dependency, now abandoned, centred on the 18th century church which is built out on a ledge. It may well occupy the site of a pagan shrine. The view– reputedly encompasses the mountains of Crete on a clear day.

Anaphi or Anafi Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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