Chorio

Boats dock in the bay of Psathi, a protected cove with a beach fronted by a few houses and a taverna. The main settlement of the island, Chorio, dominated by the high profile of the Church of the Presentation, spreads across the ridge at a little distance above and behind the port. Beyond, on the horizon, is the silhouette of Palaiokastro, the island’s highest point (365m) and its former acropolis in times of danger. The landscape is bright and open all round. A short walk of less than a kilometre up the hill ahead leads to Chorio. At the centre of the existing town is the walled rectangle of the settlement created on this site in the 15th century as a moderately well-fortified ‘Kastro’. In its design it brings to mind the mediaeval ‘Mastic Villages’ of Chios—though the structure here is somewhat smaller and simpler.
   The * Kastro of Chorio consists of a quadrilateral of houses facing inwards in similar fashion to the Kastro of Siphnos: their (once blank) external walls form the exterior of the enclosure, and their windows and doors all look on to the area inside. Within this outer ring of houses was another inner ring (see plan) defining a central space surrounding the community’s principal church. The interior—still very ruined—is entered through one of the two surviving arched entrances, to south and northeast, which were originally barred with two sets of gates. At the centre of the area is the church of Christos, which may antedate the building of the kastro itself. Its design is simple with an arcade separating two aisles—perhaps, as was often the case in the Cyclades, to accommodate functions both in Latin liturgy and Orthodox rite. Today, there are two wooden iconostases of the 18th century inside. Along the north side of the area are the best preserved houses, some with particularly fine window and door-frames opening onto upper-floor balconies. The lay out is simple and regular, planned coherently in a way that is not common for the mediaeval period in Greece. Defence has not been a priority for the builders, and it appears that the town was burnt during a pirate raid in 1638. The builds, though ruined, present a wide variety of local stones— dark red, yellow and vanilla in colour. Just north of the Kastro is the unexpectedly grand church of Aghios Ioannis Chrysostomos. The unplastered exterior, which displays the varied and tender colours of Kimolian stone at their best, is of greater interest than the interior which is spacious but plain. (For entry, ask at the kafeneion just north of the east end of the church: they will direct you to the key-holder.) The church is entered from a small area with a well in front of the south side, from where it is possible to admire its overall design, which was originally an inscribed cross surmounted by a crisply corniced octagonal drum and cupola, to which an extension was added to the west. The square tower below the octagonal drum unusually has corners recessed with niches. In the south wall the door-way and ‘bifora’ window are beautifully framed with sobre decoration in the native warm-coloured trachitic stone of the island. Although early 17th century in general appearance, with many similarities to the church of the Portiani­ in Zephyri­a on Milos (see pp. 237–238), the particularly fine window details— the Gothic designs of the interlocking arches—suggest that the church could possibly date from a century earlier.
   Kastro is surrounded on all sides by other churches of interest. In the plateia below Aghios Chrysostomos, to the northeast, is the modern church of Aghios Spyridon, which houses a beautiful 17th century icon of Christ and the Virgin; beyond, to east, is the church of the Evangelistria; to west of Kastro are the two parallel 18th churches of the Panaghia Oikonomou and the (Metamorphosis Tou) Sotiras (to north), with the earlier, 17th century church of the Taxiarches to their south. All are of architectural interest and give a sense of the unpretentious prosperity and freedom which this island enjoyed in the early years of Turkish rule. The island’s largest church is the bulky, 19th century, Eisodia tis Panaghias (the Presentation of the Virgin) to the east of Kastro: opposite its west front, a building is being prepared to house the island’s small Archaeological Collection which will display the most important finds made on the island, which are predominantly from the 8th century bc—some exceptional examples of Geometric pottery with orientalising designs, and the unusual early grave-stelai from the area of Ellenika.

Kimolos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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