The catacombs

Trypiti­ is the southern extension of Plaka, a village which winds attractively along a ridge overlooking the entrance into Milos Bay. Its name comes from the word ‘τρυπητός’, meaning ‘perforated’ or ‘shot through with holes’: this refers to the extensive network of *  Early Christian catacombs (signposted) which lie a short distance beneath the village to the southwest. (Generally open daily 8.30–1, except Mon. If closed, telephone custodian on 6978 323050.) Their development dates primarily from the 3rd and 4th centuries ad, though the original, central burial which gave rise to them may have been earlier still. There are five main galleries, extending to a total 185m; but only the principal gallery is currently open for visits.
   These are the most extensive catacombs in Greece found to date (the only others in the Aegean being near the village of Skopelos on Lesbos)—even though the catacomb is a phenomenon of the Early
Christian world found all over the Mediterranean area, from North Africa to as far north as Paris. They often derive, as here, from the initial burial place of some important holy person or martyr, followed by other pious souls who wished to be buried in their physical proximity so as to benefit from the ‘spiritual protection’ which that proximity afforded. Hence the generally organic growth of catacomb complexes. The large ‘sarcophagusof living rock in the centre of the main gallery here probably represents the original burial and the initial nucleus of the complex. The galleries are cut from a soft, volcanic tuff containing lapilli. The size of the loculi remains more or less the same, with the borders often picked out in red; there are inscriptions (scarcely visible) and later graffiti. Areas of the walls, in particular in the arcosolia, show evidence of have been rendered with plaster and painted with abstract designs. Individual catacomb burials, of which there are over 120 here, were originally lit by oil lamps which were maintained by visiting relatives and the faithful: no vent for the oxygen supply is apparent here, however. The original entrance would have been much smaller so that it could be closed with a stone. By the time the catacombs came to the public attention in the 1840s, they had already been robbed and despoiled of any objects of value, and the colours and inscriptions have since begun to fade with exposure to the atmosphere. Nonetheless the complex remains a historically and architecturally interesting space.

The road down to the catacombs from the ridge at Trypiti­ passes the church of the Panaghia Phaneromeni beside a huge cypress tree in the crook of a sharp bend: its altar is a fragment of ancient column and there are vestiges of painting in the apse.

Milos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
Early Christian Catacombs in Milos.


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