North of the Kastro
Engravings and pictures of the city from the 16th to 18th centuries (in the Korai―s Library, see below) show the coast to the north of the city lined with windmills, a few of which remain today along the coast road. Nearly two kilometres north of the city on the road to Vrontados is a row of four restored mills on the edge of the sea: by turning left (west), two blocks inland from this point, you find the church of Aghia Myrope and Aghios Isidoros in a small square of the same name. Underneath the graceless concrete church are the substantial remains of the Early Christian basilica of the island’s patron saint, St Isidore—a Roman legionary from Alexandria who was martyred in Chios in 251 ad, in the reign of Decius: the presence of his relics here must have made this the most important Early Christian site on the island—until 1125, that is, when his (headless) remains were stolen by the Venetians and later put in a marble sarcophagus in a chapel in St Mark’s. The quantity of column fragments and spolia in fine Proconnesian marble outside, originally from pagan buildings, are testimony to the five successive Christian buildings that stood on this same site: the massive foundation blocks—rearranged from the crepidoma of an ancient temple—which delineate the form of the apse of the earliest basilica, are visible to the east. The treasure of the site is the large area of well-preserved, 5th–6th century * mosaic floor in the interior. (The key for the church is kept at no. 38, on the north side of the square, and hangs on the back side of the letter box.) The abstract designs—knots, ‘mill-sails’, leaves and geometric shapes—are particularly fine and executed in only five colours of stone by someone who was clearly a master of the art. In view of the predominating ‘windmill sail’ motif in the field of the floor, it is interesting to note that there is a dedicatory inscription (now covered by the wooden floor) of ‘Arkadeios, son of Phokaios, sailmaker’. The crypt to the north side would have contained the tombs of the patronal saints.
The ancient ‘Portasanta’ marble-quarries can also be visited in the area to the north of the town. (Starting from the public gardens of Plateia Vounaki/Plastira, take the left diagonal branch after 100m—signed ‘Theatro Latomeiou’—off the main road north to Vrontados; follow this for 2.2km; as the road descends, a ramp leads up left to the church of the Panaghia Latomiissa and to Aghios Nektarios; at the top of the hill, well above the church, are the main quarries.) Given the widely varying qualities of this particular limestone, there are small quarrying assays all over the summit of the hill, easily recognisable by the curved, running striations left by the ancient cutting tools. The main quarry, in the form of a theatre-like declivity, is just below the summit. It was this stone—which varies from a mottled pink and white to a blue-grey with pink veins—that was probably used for constructing the walls of the ancient city. The marble takes its Renaissance name ‘Portasanta’ from the fact that it was the stone used for the frame of the Porta Santa, or ‘Holy Door’, of St Peter’s in Rome.
Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Chios town and the Kampos area. North of the Kastro.
Juliette May Fraser