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Pandeli & the Castle
The east coast of the island comes into view from the road, high above Bromolithos Bay: contrary to its name, which is redolent of chemistry and translates as ‘dirty or smelling rock’, this is a clean shingle bay, backed by steep wooded slopes. At its southern end is the cove of Tourkopigada (‘Turkish well’)—quieter, steeper, pine-clad and only accessible by foot. These two bays are the southern extension of the village and bay of Pandeli, a mass of white, flat-roofed houses which faces south below the castle, from an attractive shore, lined with fish-tavernas. On the ridge to the north are several windmills: six more, immaculately restored, line the road which leads from be hind Pandeli up to the castle.
The impressively-sited castle of Pandeli (open Wed, Sat & Sun 8–1, 3–7), which was substantially repaired after damage incurred during the Second World War, is the principal mediaeval monument on Leros, occupying the island’s most panoramic site which was once the acropolis of the ancient settlement of Leros from which a few vestigial pieces of masonry have been incorporated into the fortifications. It is a massive complex consisting of three successive enclosures: the inner two, originally of 10th or 11th century Byzantine construction, were later strengthened in the 14th century; the third, much larger, outer enclosure was built in the early 14th century by the Knights of St John. This was the northernmost strong hold of their territory. When Cristoforo Buondelmonti, the Florentine traveller and antiquarian, came to Leros in c. 1417, he observed that the population of the area retired within the castle’s walls at night for protection. The Knights’ presence here was by no means always welcome; in 1319 their garrison was killed by the islanders, who wished to return under the protection of Byzantium: it was forcibly re-taken by the Knights the same year. Although mentioned in late 11th century deeds of donation from the Emperor in Constantinople to Hosios Christodoulos, the founder of the monastery of St John on Patmos, the castle’s structures today are mostly those of the 14th century, and contemporary with Pera Kastro on Kalymnos.
Entrance of the enclosure is by a small gate protected by the massive projecting southwest bastion. The path leads up to the church of the Panaghia tou Kastrou, whose plain design derives from the fact that it was originally an armoury, adapted in the 17th century into a church (by the addition of an apse and a loggia on two sides), so as to house a miraculous icon. Some Byzantine fragments of templon screen and of an ambo are incorporated into its fabric: the interior is dominated by the fine carved iconostasis and the unusual pulpit. Attached to the church is a small and well-displayed Ecclesiastical Museum, containing liturgical vestments and items, and a number of 18th and 19th century icons of quality.
To the south is the gateway into the inner fortifications, leading through a tunnel with finely constructed barrel-vaulting overhead and the original paving under foot; rooms, some vaulted, one of which was formerly used as a chapel, lead off to the side. The passage emerges into a confined space between the two oldest enceintes which constituted what was the entirety of the original Byzantine fortress. A number of modifications were made to this by the Knights, such as the unusual projecting corridor from the northeast corner, added to protect the north side of their new, outer enclosure-walls, and the postern-gate low down in its northeast corner.
Leros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.