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Chios - Southern Chios and the Mastic Villages - Pyrgi

Pyrgi

The largest and most important of the Mastic Villages— because of its central position in the area—is * Pyrgi­ (23km from Chora). The village is most vividly memorable for its idiosyncratic grey and white decorations on the façades of the houses, executed in a sgraffito technique, i.e. scraping away the outer white surface of the rendering to expose the grey pozzolana (or cement today) in predetermined geometric patterns—referred to locally as ‘xysta’, (‘scrapings’ or ‘grazings’). Although this is found elsewhere in the villages, nowhere has it reached a comparable complexity and ubiquity as in Pyrgi­. Combined with the delicate wrought-iron work of the balconies, and occasionally set off by foliage and flowers in the narrow streets, the effect is unusual and unforgettable. The ubiquitous spread of the elaborate decoration is a recent phenomenon, dating from the turn of the last century; but its origins almost certainly go back to mediaeval Genoa, where it was used sparingly on the fronts of patrician houses.
   The town originally had one principal entrance—a gateway on the north side, which is the most appropriate way to approach the town. Ahead is the central plateia, grouped around the large, modern church of the Koimisis tis Theotokou. To the south, at the highest point of the town is the three storey ‘pyrgos’ or ‘Great Tower’, now partially ruined and lower than its original imposing height; it stands at the heart of the town, with an empty ‘cordon sanitaire’ around, which separates it from the dense network of streets beyond. This was the refuge in case of attack, and was originally entered by a wooden bridge which was then removed and pulled inside.
   One of the island’s loveliest and most important churches—the 14th century * church of the Aghii Apostoli— is entered down an arched alley off the east side of the central square. (Open daily 8.30–3 except Mon.) The approaching passageway allows only a confined and focused view of its striking west front: the beautiful masonry of the walls, with each stone-block carefully framed by brick tiles; the classical marble door-frame with carved decorations, surmounted by an arched niche of the same size above—now deprived of its painting, but still preserving the delicate border of phialostomia (tiny open crosses of terracotta) which surrounds it; and the magnificent drum and cupola which rises as high again above, with undulating eaves, decorative brick dentils, and broad window-frames composed of concentric arches of brick patterns. Like the Panaghia Krina, this is deeply influenced by the architecture and design of the catholicon at Nea Moni; but it is no mere copy. Its form is more compact, and its surface more decorated, but there is less of the aristocratic stylisation in its design. Since the building was renovated in 1564 by a certain ‘Simeon’, later Bishop of Chios, according to the inscription above the door, it is hard to be certain of its original date of construction: a mid-14th century date is generally agreed, but its style suggests that it may have been put up as much as a hundred years earlier. A walk around the exterior (access from either of the parallel streets to north or south) reveals the inventiveness and constant variety of the brick decoration. Inside the church is covered with wall-paintings, signed and dedicated in a panel on the north wall by the Cretan artist, Antonios Domestichos, in 1665: he was working, it might be recalled, a full two generations after his fellow islander, El Greco. The gentle but intentful face of the Pantocrator in the cupola is stylistically far in time and distance from the 11th century Constantinopolitan world of the solemn figures of the mosaics at Nea Moni.
As always with late Byzantine painting, the accent here is on narrative content and decorative pattern: this is particularly noticeable in the two memorable scenes of the Ascension and of the Harrowing of Hell on respectively the south and north walls of the crossing. The lattereniously incorporates an overlay of iconographic aspects of the Resurrection, in the open tomb and the slumbering Roman guardsmen below.
   A little over two kilometres west of Pyrgi­, along the branch-road southwest to Phana, is the tiny chapel of Aghia Marina, to the north side of the road. The modern construction is built on ancient foundations and incorporates ancient masonry in its structure: it is probably the site of a small 5th century bc sanctuary, related to the presence of the main sanctuary of Apollo Phanaios (see pp. 95–96) further southwest at the coast.

 


Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Southern Chios and the Mastic Villages. Pyrgi.

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access

Chios Island, Greece.

By air: Domestic flights from Athens, three times daily with Olympic Air and twice daily with Aegean Airlines, serve Chios throughout the year. Five days a week there are Olympic Air connections with Thessaloniki, including a twice weekly local, Eastern Aegean route, from Thessaloniki to Rhodes , via Lemnos, Mytilini and (once a week only) Samos . The airport is 3km from the centre of Chios town.
By boat: The principal route—Piraeus, Chios, Mytilini— is served by Hellenic Seaways, with a daily 12.30 departure from Piraeus, arriving Chios at 7pm, continuing to Mytilini, and returning to Piraeus overnight. NEL Lines run three times weekly along the route from/to Samos to the south, and Mytilini, Lemnos, and Kavala, to the north. Smaller ferry-boats connect Chios with Psará (5 times weekly), and Oinousses (6 times weekly). Crossings to Turkey (Çeşme) run almost daily during the summer season (Easter–mid-October); thereafter much more infrequently.

Chios Travel Guide

beaches

Chios Island, Greece.

 

Lithi Beach

Emboreios Mavros Gialos

Chios Travel Guide

eating

Chios Island, Greece.

Delightful, welcoming and with fresh, imaginative dishes and good bourekakia (lightly filled and fried filo-pastry rolls), is the (recently much enlarged) taverna, Roussikó, in Thymianá (just east of the main church in the village).
In the main town of Chios: both "Byzantinio" and "Elleniki Kouzina", on opposite sides of the crossing of Ralli and Roïdou Streets between the port and the public gardens, are favoured by locals for their clean environment, inexpensive home-cooking and well-prepared, workaday food; no frills and no atmosphere, just simple food.
Iakovou (evenings only), on Aghios Giorgios Street in the Kastro, has more atmosphere and offers a number of Asia Minor dishes.
Around the island: Lefteris at Pandoukiós (just south of Langada on the northeast coast), Tria Adelphia on Lithí Beach (central west Chios) and the taverna, Limani Meston in Liménas (southwest Chios), all offer excellent, fresh fishdishes in pleasant settings by the shore; while Markellos at Pitiós is well-known for meat and vegetable dishes of local cuisine; and Pheragides offers mezes in the delightful setting of a plane-shaded plateia at Kardámyla in northeastern Chios.
The cliffs and rocky coasts of Chios are home to an aromatic samphire ("kritamo") which is a distinctive element of its salads—always worth asking for, if it has not already been included in the mixture. Chios also has a tradition of excellence in oriental pastries; the quality of the baklava and other sweets made by the Amandier Patisserie in Livanou Street (south side of port) is worthy of any Ottoman pastry-chef.

Chios Travel Guide

further reading

Chios Island, Greece.

For social history of the important families of Chios and for the events of 1821/2 the following site contains much valuable information: www. christopherlong.co.uk/pub/ chiosinfo.html

Chios Travel Guide

lodging

Chios Island, Greece.

A number of the nicest places to stay on Chios are in Kampos, to the south of the main town, in the elegant stone villas which are so characteristic of the area. Two, that are close to one another, and run by different members of the same family, are particularly recommended:
-Perivoli (Argenti Street, T. 22710 31513, fax 32042, www.perivolihotel. gr), and -Perleas (Vitiadou Street, T. 22710 32217, fax 32364, www.perleas.gr). Both offer simple accommodation and attentive hospitality, moderately priced, in elegant villas with gardens. Although signposted, neither is easy to find: if you call ahead, you will be piloted, or collected. There is public transport to this area, but a rental vehicle is advised. In the centre of town, at the south end of the port, is the Hotel Kyma in a stone-built mansion looking onto the sea (T. 22710 44500, fax 44600, email: kyma@chi. forthnet.gr); the antiquity of the plumbing and bedroom furniture are more than compensated for by the friendliness and attentive hospitality of the owners and by the charm of the building.
A different experience is offered by Spilia Xenonas at Kardámyla above the northeast coast, 23km from the port (T. 22720 22933, fax 22823, www. spilia-chios.gr). This is a group of small, carefully restored, characteristic, stone cottages at the top of the village, with views towards the sea in the distance: a good homemade breakfast is provided. Wooden signposts guide you up to the cottages on steep stone paths through the village; any car will need to be left some distance below.

Chios Travel Guide

museums

Chios Island, Greece.

Archaeological Museum
Byzantine Museum
Folklore Museum

Chios Travel Guide

practical info

Chios Island, Greece.

821 00/02 & 822 00 Chios: area 841 sq. km; perimeter 213km; resident population 51,060; max. altitude 1,297m. Port Authority: T. 22710 44433. Travel and information: Municipal Tourist Office, T. 22710 44389, www.chiosonline.gr

Chios Travel Guide

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