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Counterclock wise through Chora from the Town Hall
Just over 150m west of the entrance of the monastery is the Demarcheion (town hall) of 1884: the statue on the north side of the open Plateia Lotza (‘Loggia’) in front honours the Patmian hero, Immanuel Xanthos, one of the earliest Greek independence fighters who in 1814 founded the Greek Independence Party, or Philiki Etaireia (‘Friendly Association’) together with two other Greek businessmen then working in Odessa, Athanasios Tsakalof and Nikolaos Skoufas. Set back, and to the left of the classical façade of the Demarcheion with its disconcertingly shallow pediment, is one of the older buildings of Chora—a house whose window frames are carved with Greek crosses, bearing the date 1598 and preserving on the upper floor the sculpted imposts of a former stone balcony. Fifty metres down the street which begins in front of this house (on the right-hand side of the second street to the left) a small ancient inscription has been immured into the wall, just below eye-level: here the street divides and the branch furthest to the right leads to the Archontiko Simandiris and to the early 17th century convent of the Zoodochos Pigi (open 8–12, 4–7). The convent, built around two principal courtyards, intimate in size and full of flowering shrubs and climbing plants, is a rich ensemble of icons, wall-paintings and woodwork. Just as in the monastery of St John, there is a main catholicon, with a decorated parecclesion on the south side: here—since this is a nunnery—the situation is reversed, and the catholicon is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, while the parecclesion is dedicated to St John. All that is visible here is from the 17th and 18th centuries, but it is complete and of generally high quality—the fine icon of the Virgin and Child in the narthex with its beautiful carved frame; the simple wooden doors and the (recently cleaned) cycle of wall paintings of the interior, which culminate in a dignified Presentation of Mary (right of the iconostasis), and the Deposition on the north wall. Only the poorer quality of the faces detracts from the impressive overall effect of rich colour and thoughtful composition.
Almost bordering the convent, and entered from the parallel street one block to its west is the Archontiko Simandiris (open 9–1, 5–7). Built 18 years later than the convent in 1625, the mansion surprises by the airy spaciousness of its interior even though its most attractive feature, the arcaded upper-floor verandah with views to the mountain and the sea, has been closed in with glass. The present owner is the eighth generation of her family to live here. The cooler areas below function as work and storage rooms, while the luminous reception and sleep areas occupy the upper floor. Openness prevails; the building feels more like a community of different habitations than a single residence. The pictures, objects and furniture displayed have mostly curiosity value, but they give a vivid picture of middle-class island life and taste over the last 200 years.
Returning uphill to the junction beside the immured inscription, the street to its east leads around the southern side of the town, with the towering fortifications and scarps of the monastery above and to the left. The large modern church of the Panaghia ‘Diasozoussa’ (the ‘Rescuer’) is a late 16th century foundation which was entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1956: it houses an important Russian icon of the same period. In the area around it are many small stone churches of different ages; although a number of them possess altars made of ancient pagan spolia, their simple vaulted interiors have been whitewashed, and their principal interest is in their carved door-frames and belfries.
After the street has climbed up and turned towards the north into the heart of the Kritika area, it opens out into Lesvias Square—one of the few spaces in the town which could be called a main plateia, bounded by a couple of tavernas and cafes and marked on its southwest corner by a holy water-stoup, constructed in the form of a small, free-standing stone shrine. The north exit of the square leads under buildings, and follows the curve of the hill around the monastery, towards the north. After 100m, the Nikolaidis Mansion (open Tues–Sun 11–2) comes into view down a street to the right. This is a recently re stored 18th century residence, quite different in feel and presentation from the Simandiris House: its bare rooms are used to display didactic material on the history and archaeology of Patmos (prepared by the Department of Antiquities) as well as some superb examples of painted furniture—a pair of cupboard doors, and one of the fin est examples of a *Patmian ambataros. The ‘ambataros’ is a wooden structure which divides the sleeping area of a room from the main reception area: this is a common feature of Aegean island houses, but on Patmos it acquires a beauty and complexity of its own, combining many functional purposes (storage, privacy, maximisation of space), with ostentatious display in its carved elements and exquisitely painted surface.
Patmos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.