Around Limni and Prokopi:central northern Euboea  –  Limni

(Limni = 0.0km for distances in this section)

Gathered in front of a south-facing shore surrounded by hills and with beautiful views across the water into Boeotia and Phthiotis, Limni is an attractive centre from which to explore the rural areas of northern central Euboea. Spirited, yet pleasingly tranquil; understated, but quietly elegant; the town has conserved much of the dignified architecture and planning of its late 19th century design. Wrought-iron balconies supported on finely carved mar ble volutes, balustrades, and coloured neoclassical façades combine in a variety of styles: none exaggerated; all interesting. Little remains of Ancient Elymnion to which Limni is the modern successor. The earliest vestiges are to be found at the curious church of the Panaghisa which stands in a small square about three blocks inland and to the right of the ‘Eirinidikteio’ building on the waterfront next to the statue of Lela Karayiannis—a martyr of the underground resistance movement in Greece during the Second World War.

The church looks more like a low, squat house, with a single apsidal extension in its northeast corner: the row of small columns to its north survive from an Early Byzantine predecessor on this site, believed to date from the reign of Justinian in the 6th century and destroyed 200 years later by Sara cen raiders. In the interior is an area of late Roman mosaic floor from an ancient bathing complex. In the floor of the apse, visible through two low arches, the mosaic has decorative representations of fish and marine animals which, given their importance also as Christian symbols, may explain the construction of the church over this area of the Roman baths in the first place. A marble statue of Hercules (now in the museum in Chalcis) was found on the site in 1856: more floor-mosaic and other later finds are in the local museum and the Byzantine Museum in Athens.

At the opposite end of the water-front, set back from the northern extremity of the beach and cut into the cliff-face, is the 11th century hermitage of Hosios Christodoulos. Here tradition relates that Christodoulos (see vol. 15, ‘Northern Dodecanese’), the founder of the Monastery of St John on Patmos, died in March 1093 after he had been forced to flee from Patmos to Euboea in the face of Turkish incursions. The interior, filled with censers and icons, is a minute grotto of appropriately hermitic simplicity.
   The other churches of the town, often richly decorated and furnished, date mostly from the last 130 years. A small and orderly Municipal Museum (open summer Mon–Sat 9–1, Sun 10.30–2, week-days only in winter) exhibits a collection of ancient and Byzantine antiquities found locally, as well as examples of local costume, furniture and domestic articles, in the setting of a restored Limniot house of the late 19th century, in which the original disposition of the rooms has been respected. Notable are: (ground floor) the large area of mosaic from the Late Roman baths by the church of the Panaghitsa (see above); some fine Hellenistic and Byzantine coins; a carved Roman family stele; and memorabilia of two Limniot patriots—Angelis Govios and Lela Karayiannis. On the upper floor are well selected and presented examples of local costume, textiles, furniture and lace-work.
   The scenic continuation of the shoreline road to the southeast, passes by the former magnesite minehead and loading-bays at Katounia (3km), once operated by the Anglo-Greek Magnesite Co. In the early part of the 20th century the mine processed around 35,000 tons of raw material per year. Today the defunct buildings have be come dwellings immersed in flowering vegetation. The mine owner’s house later became the residence of the translator and scholar, Philip Sherrard (1922–95), who constructed the small stone church of Aghia Skepi in the valley in 1993. The road passes along an attractively wooded shore and ends below the western face of Mount Kandili (Ancient Mount Aigai: 1,236m) which drops over 600m sheer into the water, dispatching strange cur rents of wind onto the waters below. Here, set back from the shore and tucked into the lee of the mountain is the 16th century  * convent of Aghios Nikolaos Galataki (9km) (open summer 9–12, 5–8; winter 4–7) first founded purportedly on the site of a temple of Poseidon in the 8th century. The dedication to St Nicholas, patron saint of mariners, may be a carry through from the cult of Poseidon, divinity of the waters.

The perfectly maintained nunnery has a compact form dominated by the sturdy tower (now sleeping quarters for guests) built between 1555 and 1562 by Hosios David Gerontos as a defence against pirate raids. A number of marbles, amongst them a fine fragment of an Ionic capital— evidence of an earlier, ancient presence in the area—have been collected together in the courtyard. The catholicon was built in 1566: the dome is supported by four columns, which on the south side have early capitals—one Ionic, the other early Byzantine. The walls have areas of wall-painting which were executed in 1586; their surface has been chipped to facilitate the adherence of a subsequent layer of plaster for later paintings, which were then lost when the building suffered a fire in the 18th century. The best preserved and most complete paintings, figuring scenes of the miracles of St Nicholas, are in the narthex which is roofed with six blind domes. The ‘Ladder of ascent to Heaven’ on the south wall is particularly noteworthy. The later wall-paintings in the parecclesion on the south side, dedicated to the Baptist, are in good condition, and include decorative details such as the unusual guinea-fowl depicted below the window in the south wall. At several points graffiti of boats have been scratched into the surface of the wall as votive acknowledgements to St Nicholas by grateful mariners. About 200m east of the convent, through the rear door, is the hermitage and cave chapel of St Andrew, with faint remains of painting: the convent conserves the hand of St Andrew as a relic.

Euboea Island, Greece

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