Kastro

The northern side of the hill of Kastro was occupied in prehistory by a settlement of the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc. Later, from the 6th century bc onwards, the eminence was the site of the sanctuary of Athena (Poliouchos, or ‘Protector of the City’). This included an imposingly large temple put up when Paros was under the domination of Naxos and its tyrant Lygdamis, in the 520s bc. Its construction is contemporary, therefore, with the unfinished structure of the ‘Portara’ on Naxos ; in fact deductions made from the measurements of fragments incorporated into the walls of the Venetian castle now built on its site, indicate that it may have had a door-way commensurate with the Portara. The hill has substantially eroded on its western side due to seismic activity, and two thirds of the temple lies buried under the sea below. The remains that are visible, in and under the church of Aghios Konstantinos, represent only its eastern extremity (the front), be fore which would have stood the altar. The marble temple was an Ionic-style building, with two six-column porticos to either end (i.e. amphiprostyle), supporting an undeco ated trabeation, pediments and a pitched roof.
   Climbing up to the Kastro from the waterfront, you come immediately to the stacked rows of drafted gneiss slabs which constituted the platform of the temple: the temple itself was constructed of white Parian marble, which contrasted with the green-grey schist of the podium. Inside the church of Aghios Konstantinos (entered through the adjacent church of the Evangeli­stria to the south), several courses of the lateral walls of the temple’s cella, in rectangular marble blocks, can be seen constituting the lower part of the north wall. Over the church’s carved west door-frame is a cross made from Iznik tiles: only the upper arm of the cross is of antique (16th century) tiles, the others are modern reproductions. The adjoining 18th century church of the Evangeli­stria (Annunciation) has a low arcaded porch on its southern side, supported by Early Christian window elements coming from the Basilica at Tris Ekklesies (see pp. 45–46). In the street which curves northwards from the church, ancient spolia are so abundant that column drums are used as tables in the porches of houses.

   On the left side of this street, rise the walls of the Venetian castle, built around 1260 by Angelo and Marco (II) Sanudo. A good half of the castle has suffered the erosion of the west side of the hill and has finished in the sea to gether with the temple of Athena, leaving the northeast corner as the best preserved sector. It is constructed from hundreds of marble blocks, architraves and columns ob tained by demolishing temples and other ancient structures on the site. The phenomenon is common all over the Mediterranean, but the scale of it here is breathtak: it is hard—even ifenuous—to imagine that the elimination of what must have been majestic, if ruined, marble temples and their conversion into masonry for a fortress with such a paucity of architectural quality to it, did not give the 13th century builders some twinge of regret. The walls are nonetheless a fascinating mosaic of ancient pieces; in which long rows of column drums on their sides, alternate with courses of rectangular blocks, incorporating 5m-long elements of the temple’s marble portal: at other points there are (partial) inscriptions on blocks and elements of decorated cornice. The marble is Parian, but comes from areas of the quarries where it is delicately veined with grey. This was ‘constructional grade’ marble, as opposed to the pure white which was of ‘sculptural grade’. Apart from the material from the temple of Athena, elements were also taken from an Archaic temple of Persephone and Kore within the ancient city (according to Gottfried Gruben), from a long Doric stoa of the Hellenistic period, and possibly from the temple of Demeter outside the city which is mentioned by Herodotus (VI, 134). One curiosity, visible from the south, high up at the top of the northeast bastion, is a round, 4th century BC, tower-like structure or tholos, originally dedicated to Hestia, goddess of the hearth: its shape served as a ready-made apse for the church of Christos which was built around it, high up inside the bastion. The church was partially removed by archaeologists a century ago, so as to reveal the ancient structure.
   From below, it is possible to see the overall curve in the walls which gave the fortress a slightly elliptical form. The four churches in the northeast corner, from south to north are: the Panaghia tou Stavrou, built in 1514, Aghia Ekaterini, Aghios Ioannis and the chapel of Evangeli­stria (1752). Between Aghia Ekaterini and Aghios Ioannis, the southeastern wall of the latter is ‘buttressed’ on the out side by a fluted column lying at its base and covered in countless layers of whitewash.

Travel Guide to Paros & Greece

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