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A note on visiting Byzantine churches on Kythera
The island, for its size, has an unequalled wealth of Byzantine churches. Many of those mentioned here are kept locked and their keys are no longer held, as before, by a local neighbour. This has become the case after a notorious series of thefts in the 1990s; and the policy is unlikely now to change. To visit, for example, four or five of the greatest treasures on the island out side the months of July and August, different entities or people will probably need to be contacted:
* the key for the cave church of Aghia Sophia, below Mylopotamos, is kept in the custody of the Demarcheion (the Town Hall: T. 27360 31213) in Chora, except in July and August, when the church should be open for four hours every day, except on Mondays;
* the keys for the ancient churches on the peak of Vouno are kept by the local pappas (priest) of the Palaiopolis parish (this parish includes the monastery of Aghia Moni (T. 27360 33251) where he can often be contacted);
* for the painted churches of Aghios Demetrios at Pourko, Aghios Andreas at Livadi, or Aghii Anargyri and Aghios Vlasios at Frilingianika, the keys are kept at the Byzantine Antiquities Department (T. 27360 31195) in the main street of Livadi, although the churches are occasionally open for liturgies or cleaning.
Those involved are generally helpful in facilitating visits: but finding the right person at the right moment is not always easy. The few churches mentioned above are of such importance or beauty that the effort needed to get to see them will be more than repaid; for the others mentioned in the text below, it is up to the visitor to decide according to his or her stamina. Never fail, however, to go into any church which happens casually to be open for whatever reason, even if you are on your way some where else: the opportunity is golden.
Kythera Island, Greece