Churches and streets of Parikia, below the Kastro

Just to the south of the front entrance of the Katapoliani­ is a large ruined building standing in an area of walled garden, referred to as the ‘Frangomonastiro’, or Frankish Monastery—in reality the remains of what was the catholicon of the monastery of the Capuchins, built in 1700 but shortly after destroyed during the first Russo Turkish War in 1770—standing next to the Roman Catholic church of St Anthony.
   The area to the west, between the church of the Katapoliani­ and Kastro, traversed by Gravari Street, is an attractive network of streets with mostly low Cycladic houses of two floors, often with trellised courtyards and wooden balconies on the upper floor, which extend over the street in places creating small covered passageways. The external corners of buildings are frequently rounded to facilitate the passing of loaded donkeys and mules. Along the main thoroughfares are a number of prominent neoclassical façades of houses built by prosperous merchant families. A number of these can be seen towards the western end of Gravari Street. A good example is the coloured and pedimented façade of the Demetrakopoulos Mansion (south side). The house has a walled court to one side, a central balcony in wrought-iron supported on carved marble vo lutes, and a coloured trabeation which is attractively dentillated. It was built in the first decade of the 20th century.
   The majority of the churches in the lower part of Paros date from the 17th century, a period of renewed prosperity, stability and relative commercial freedom for the island: they mostly do not have wall-painting, but have carved wooden iconostases, paved marble floors, and, in some cases, the traditional Cycladic raftered ceiling of reed-wattle covered with a layer of seaweed and bound and sealed in a ‘cement’ made with sand and crushed sea shells. Of the many churches, three in the lower area of the town stand out.
   To the north side of Gravari Street is the church of the Panaghia Septemvriani­, built in 1592, set back behind a paved space with trees and a supine, fluted ancient column. The door is framed with a marble surround and the interior embellished by a finely carved marble iconostasis. Inside, the design is simple and dignified, with unusual spaciousness given by a wide narthex. Two ancient Doric capitals are incorporated into the corners between the narthex and the naos , and a third constitutes the altar: other spolia peek out from the plaster. Fifty metres further west, and one block to the south on Karavia Street, is the church of the Presentation of the Virgin (Eisodia tis Theotokou) of 1645, in which the dome is built on arches supported by marble columns and capitals: in the vault over the al tar are some damaged wall-paintings of the 18th century. One hundred metres further south of here, in the area of Tholakia, is the church of Aghia Marina (1623), just off Odos Skopa on what is referred to as the ‘Nea Odos’. In the area are several 17th century churches—Aghios Artemios, Aghios Ioannis, Aghii Anargyri—but Aghia Marina is the most interesting of all, recognisable from outside by the incorporation of two beautiful fragments of ancient decorative cornice, one of which functions as a window-ledge. Inside are many more spolia—ancient column fragments and upturned capitals—as well as a fine 17th century sarcophagus front opposite the door of entry. The marble templon screen displays a particularly beautiful icon of the Virgin and Child, of the 16th century.
   At the point where Gravari and Agora streets meet is a substantial municipal building with an arcaded porch, supported on a couple of slender marble columns, which probably dates from the late 16th century. To either side of the arcade are two crudely carved reliefs of grotesque figures—a man (right) and a woman (left) apparently holding their stomachs. They appear to originate from the same fantasy, though less well-executed, as the two contorted figures below the pillars of the removed 17th doorframe (see p. 23–24) of the Katopoliani­ complex. Below the female figure, a piece of marble with an antique inscription has been incorporated upside down. Opposite is a carved marble water-fountain, one of three in the town (here, at Panaghia Septemvriani­, and at Aghia Triada), all dated 1777 and all the gift of the Paros-born dragoman, Nikolaos Mavrogenis, who built the aqueduct that fed them with spring water. From the fountain, a street leads uphill to the Kastro, whose walls made from hundreds of ancient spolia and fragments are glimpsed ahead.

Travel Guide to Paros & Greece

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