Kastro

A rough track heads north from Loutra to the northern extremity of the island; after 2km a branch leads steeply up to the west to a plateau where it divides. The north branch finishes at the attractive broad-domed church of Aghios Giorgios which, though modernised inside, is a fine mediaeval structure in origin. By striking due west from the point where the track divides, you climb over a rise and then drop down towards the spectacular site of the island’s mediaeval capital—referred to both as Kastro tis Orias and Kastro tou Katakephalou—which constituted the main focus of habitation on the island from the 7th to the 16th centuries AD.

The settlement occupies a rocky point with steep drops on three sides and wide views across the water to Kea. The en trance is across a narrow col and through a low gate in an outer enceinte of walls. Visible above to the right is a walled rock-face on the top of which stands the church of the Panaghia Eleousa; its structure (re-roofed in modern times) incorporates Early Byzantine elements such as the carved vault quoin in the south wall: other antique elements can be seen immured in the ruins of the dense settlement of houses, cisterns and walls on the summit above. At the northwestern end of the area is a barrel-vaulted church whose western wall has fallen away. It contains some surviving murals at its eastern end, in the apse and in the south side of the vault, where a 15th century painting of the ‘Virgin in Majesty’ is still visible though very faded.

The site, similar to many other Byzantine refuges and strongholds such as Kastro on Skiathos or Palaiochora on Kythera, is memorably dramatic and tranquil.

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

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