Aghia Theodoti, Psathi & the monastery of Aghios Ioannis

The wild and exposed east coast of the island has the feel of a remote and largely uninhabited frontier area: the re mains of foundations and a surface aqueduct from the Roman period, in the coastal area between Aghia Theodoti (10km) and Psathi (17.5km), suggest that it was more inhabited in antiquity however. The church of Aghia Theodoti, set above the wide bay of that name 5.5km east of the road junction above Epano Kambos, is an unusual piece of 16th century architecture: its broad interior, preceded by a shallow transverse narthex, develops beneath two successive, large domes, creating a pleasing effect. The annexes and areas to the west were added to host the eating and dancing in honour of the Saint, which takes place on 8 September in what is one of the most popular feasts of the year for Ios .


Between Aghia Theodoti and Psathi, the road climbs high into the mountainous interior, once covered with the oak forests from which Ios formerly derived considerable wealth. At 12.5km from Chora, just before the road begins to descend again to Psathi, a detour of 4.5km leads right (south), past the heavily restored church of Aghios Giorgios, to the 16th century ‘monastery of Pyrgos’ dedicated to Aghios Ioannis Prodromos (St John the Baptist), built on a panoramic ledge, just below the highest summit of the island (714m). From this vantage point, the entire north of the island, and Sikinos and Folegandros across the water, are laid out as if on a map. Although there is no visual evidence on site to corroborate it, local tradition claims that the monastery was built on the site of a temple of Apollo which, if it did exist, would have vied with that at Bassae for its lofty and dramatic position. It is more probable that the site was occupied by an ancient watch-tower. The fortified quadrangle of monastic buildings is now ruined, but the church which has a free-cross design with semi-domes on the lateral arms is well-maintained and has a pleasing interior space.
Descending to the coast towards Psathi, the main road passes the ruins of the Venetian castle of Palaiokastro, visible on the summit ahead, before the road turns sharply east (15 mins by path and steps, from the bend at 14km).

The visible ruins and existing masonry in a local limestone— a single enceinte of walls, enclosing an irregular space on the edge of a precipitous drop—appear to date from around 1500, even though there is some suggestion that a smaller Byzantine fortress was built on the site over three centuries earlier. Once the Venetian Pisani family had taken over control of the island from the Crispo family in 1450, a need was clearly felt to expand the defences and surveillance capabilities of the island beyond the area of Chora to this eastern seaboard. The site here overlooks a vitally important maritime route, connecting both Rhodes and Crete with Naxos and the Western Aegean. Remains of a cistern and of several buildings survive within the enceinte. The church of the Panaghia Palaiokastritissa dates from the late 17th century.

The road ends at Psathi (17.5km) a remote and relatively exposed bay, which appears to have known greater significance in antiquity than it does today. An Ionic temple to Poseidon Phytalmios (‘the Nourisher’) stood here, on the site now occupied by the church of Aghios Nikolaos, also known locally as the Panaghia ‘tou Pori’ (not far in from the coast, 400m southeast of the village; marked by a palm tree). The high podium built of eroded schists is visible below the north side of the church: other spolia lie in the vicinity.

The beach of Psathi, together with the others along the island’s central eastern coast, constitute a breeding habitat for the Mediterranean sea-turtle. To the north of the bay, on the island of Psathonisi, the remains of an Early Cycladic settlement have been identified.

 

Ios Island is part of the Cyclades Island group
The East of the Island: Aghia Theodoti, Psathi & the monastery of Aghios Ioannis.

 


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