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We begin in the ‘Kastro’ area, at the northwestern point of the town. The acropolis of Ancient Mykonos was a meagre hill—the area behind today’s town hall—project from the centre of the west coast of the island, and marking a small harbour to its east. A Byzantine and then Venetian kastro succeeded it, of which scant remains can still be seen at the western extremity by the shore and in the cellars and lower floors of the buildings in the area. To the west, the church of the Panaghia Paraportiani, as its name implies, must have stood by the fortress’s postern gate or ‘paraporti’.
This iconic building of Cycladic architecture is not one church but a curious agglutination of five chapels. Strictly speaking, the chapel of the Panaghia Paraportiani is the small ‘oratory’ under the dome on the upper floor; it is built on top of an earlier church beneath it, in the middle of the building, dedicated to the Aghii Anargyri (SS. Cosmas and Damian), and dating from the early 15th century; then a church of Aghia Anastasia has clung to the south, another dedicated to the Saviour (Aghios Sozon) to the northwest, and another dedicated to Aghios Efstathios to the east. The result of all this agglutination is a highly evocative profile—lively, organic, and different from every angle. The complex is sup ported by irregular stone buttresses, which, if not part of the actual walls of the former kastro, are reorganised material from them. It is a building created by happenstance—part ruin, part complete—whose disparate elements slowly come together as the building rises, into a harmonious, pyramidal form of uncertain outlines as if eroded by the sea around.
The nearby church of Aghios Ioannis Vathous, on the edge of the rocks to the north, still preserves a damaged wall-painting of the Archangel Michael in its interior, above the iconostasis. It also contains two late 17th century icons of great beauty by Michai―l Raphios. In the floor of the small church directly to the south, Aghia Soteira tou Kastrou, is the grave of Manolis Mermelechas, one of the most famous pirates of the Cyclades, who died of cholera on Mykonos in 1854. Some time around 1830, Mermelechas renounced his life of fearless pillage and became a bakery owner, living on Mykonos as an ordinary citizen until his death. The area of Kastro is dotted with other churches which have survived where the fortress itself has disappeared: of them all, Aghios Demetrios (east of the Paraportiani) is probably the oldest and dates from the 13th century. In the north wall of the interior of the church, which is composed of a main aisle and a side chapel, is a blind arcade supported by ancient columns with fine inverted Ionic capitals.
The 18th century sea-captain’s house, which forms part of the northern border of the area overlooking the sea, houses a Folklore Museum (open Easter–Oct daily 5.30–8.30pm). This, together with the ‘Lena’s House’ Museum (see below), gives an interesting picture of Mykoniot life of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The furniture, textiles, paintings and photographs recreate a typical 19th century interior: in the lower level there are exhibits of boats, rigging, naval cannon and other maritime material, as well as the so-called ‘Well of Mermelechas’ which must have been in service in the Venetian castle long be fore the time of the pirate.
The often windswept northern quay and main promenade of the town has been enlarged northwards into the area of the harbour; originally the tiny chapel of Aghios Nikolaos tou Gialou on its edge, stood on a small islet of rock accessible only by an arched bridge. The present Neoclassical structure is the last of many churches on the site, and dates from the early years of the 20th century. Facing it is the Town Hall, built in the late 18th century as a residence for the Russian consul, Count Ivan Voinovich, during the period of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74. In its portico are marble elements taken from Delos . Opposite and to the east, a fish-market takes place on the promenade in the early morning, regularly attended by the island’s tame pelican who—although now in the umpteenth generation—is still always called ‘Petros’. The tradition is an old one, and the independent traveller, Bernard Randolph, was intrigued by the island’s pelicans when he came to Mykonos in the 1680s. He attempted to measure the seemingly bottomless capacity of the pouch of the beak, and found that it exceeded twelve quarts. Petros, who wanders freely through the town, can sometimes be encountered after dark, head under wings, asleep in the alleyways away from the noise of the nightlife.
Mykonos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
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