The Castle and Panaghia Spiliani
The approach to the Castle of the Knights of St. John is designed so that it is entered through no fewer than three ‘double-back’ gateways, and one tunnel. On the way up is a small cave whose use as an anchorite’s hermitage doubt less predates the existence of the castle. Near the top the south bastion bearing the triple escutcheon comes into view: just beside it, to the right, can be seen much larger blocks appertaining to ancient fortifications. A wide variety of carved escutcheons of Knights and Grand Masters of the Order of St. John are visible at different points. The castle dates from the first Venetian fort built here in 1312 and was enlarged by the Knights in the course of the same century. Unlike those in Tilos, Chalki and Alimnia, it is not built on top of the largest area of preceding, ancient fortifications (which here lie on the higher summit, 750m to the south, and would have provided the builders with very substantial existing walls): the choice of this lower position was so as to preserve greater control of the harbour and town.
A gate beneath a bell-tower leads down into the monastery of the Panaghia Spiliani, which has grown up around another sacred spot associated with an anchorite’s cave in the rock, and whose origins long predate the castle. (In the vestibule before entering the church, a number of icons and pictures relate a local, symbolic story of the infidel attempting to steal sacred liturgical objects, whose wrists have been severed in the act by Divine intervention.) A long narthex on a lower level gives access to the main catholicon through a fine carved marble doorframe, composed of pieces probably taken from a 12th century templon screen of an earlier church on this site. In the atmospheric sanctum of the cave, the natural form of the rock has meant that the present, wooden iconostasis, which bears many silver-cased icons, is divided into two distinct sections.
Nisyros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.