Chora

A kilometre from the Apokrisi junction the main road reaches Chora, or Kythnos (7km), which superseded Dry opida as the administrative centre of the island in 1864. Invisible from the coast, it lies at the centre of the fertile uplands of the island’s centre, and is partially sunk from view on the north side of a dip which provides irrigation for a small area of orchards below. The town grew up in the early 1600s as the population transferred from the remote and fortified mediaeval stronghold of Kastro tis Orias on the northwest coast. The survival of so many elegant 17th century churches is a reflection of the religious tolerance of subsequent Ottoman rule. At the western extremity of the town’s straggling main thoroughfare, the church of the Sotiras has, in common with several other churches nearby, icons of great quality by the Skordilis brothers—late 17th century Cretan-Venetian icon painters. Further east is the church of the Taxiarchis, whose central vault is supported by a truncated, fluted, antique column. Aghios Savvas, to its east, was used jointly as a place of Orthodox and Catholic worship and bears the marble coat of arms of the Gozzadini overlords above its west door, dating from the last months before the Turkish capture of the island. The oldest church in Chora, Aghia Triada, lies much further east, and although extend ed later and now modernised inside, its broad, domed structure is of early mediaeval origin (c. 12th century): the interior still conserves a fine 17th century wooden iconostasis. Almost in the centre of the town is a church whose structure, apart from its east end, has not survived: its name—the ‘Katholikon’—and its twin apses suggest that it may have been a church built or adapted so as to accommodate both Orthodox and Catholic worship. This is a design often encountered on Naxos and the other Cycladic islands included in the ‘Duchy of the Archipelago’, created by Marco Sanudo in the 13th century (see under Naxos ). Sanudo’s wife was a member of the Byzantine Imperial family, and his dynasty’s rule is generally marked by a religious tolerance which fostered this kind of architectural anomaly. The two aisles would have had separate dedications and would accommodate the two separate liturgies. Today the Katholikon is a small repository of archaeological finds: an eroded statue in Parian marble of a seated robed divinity; altars in marble and volcanic tuff; the base of a votive relief with a scene of five figures attending a sacrifice at an altar; and various funerary and official inscriptions of the late Hellenistic epoch. (The island’s main archaeological collection, including many of the numerous finds from Vryokastro, is stored in the building behind the Demarcheion: it is currently not on view to the public and is still awaiting a decision on its eventual destination for exhibition.)
   Fifteen minutes by foot uphill to the southeast of Chora is the church of the Panaghia tou Nikous, standing in a walled enclosure in front of a well-head. The original dome-on-cross form of the 18th century church has had a large, open, domed narthex with a belfry added to its west front at a later date. The building incorporates some older material—a carved capital and monolithic columns. The church became an important ‘underground’ school for Greek language and studies during the Turkish occupation, and a plaque in the courtyard commemorates the work here of the pedagogue, Makarios Philippaios, between 1809 and 1840.
   On the east coast, 5km north of Chora is the island’s main thermal station of Loutra (12km) spread around a sheltered harbour and a group of deep bays. The only large building is the ‘Hydro’, projected by King Otho in 1836 as part of a planned ‘thermal spa village’, the first of the new Greek kingdom. The original arcaded structure, faced in marble, has been added to clumsily in the 1970s and is now undergoing fitful restoration. The complex covers two hot springs: immediately behind the building is the church of the Aghii Anargyri, in front of whose west end rises the cooler of the two springs at c. 39°C: the other, known as ‘Kakavos’, rises at 52°C under the building be side the opposite end of the Hydro. The abundant, highly ferrous waters flow around the perimeter of the build and across to the south corner of the bay where they empty into the sea beside a channel bringing cold water from another spring which rises further to the south. This corner of the bay is the only place where immersion in the waters can be comfortably enjoyed.
   At the eastern extremity of Loutra Bay, embedded in the rock face behind the church of Aghia Irini are three gravestones commemorating the execution of participants in the so-called ‘Leotsakos Rebellion’ of 1862 which began on Syros and was in opposition to King Otho’s increasingly autocratic power. The three rebels executed here had attempted to free political prisoners exiled on Kythnos. To the north of Loutra, in Schinari Bay, are the remains of the loading stations for iron mines which were an important part of the island’s economy until their closure in 1940.

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

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