The North of the Island
Both Batsi, to the north, and Aghios Nikolaos and Steno to the west of Salamis town are quiet coastal settlements of suburban homes with gardens, occasionally offering beaches for bathing in the protected waters—in particular along the north coast at Psili Ammos and Vasilika. The main monument of the area is the monastery of the Panaghia Phaneromeni (the Apparition of the Virgin), towards the western extremity of the north coast, 6.5km from Salamis—an interesting architectural ensemble dating from 1661, when the current building was founded by Hosios Lavrentios (the Venerable Laurentius of Megara), replacing a much earlier church on the site dedicated to the Metamorphosis.
The church clearly has a long history: the carved anthemion of a stele in the courtyard to the south of the church may indicate an ancient structure on this site, while a number of Early Christian spolia (such as the two column-stumps sup porting the machicolation above the main entrance to the monastery compound) point to it subsequently having been occupied by an Early Christian building. The later, mediaeval carved plaques of marble, which were closure panels from a templon screen, immured in the west façade of the catholicon along with several fragmentary ceramic bowls in the pediment, suggest that a new church was then built over its foundations in the 14th century. The final rebuilding of the monastery in its present form after 1661 follows western, rather than Byzantine, canons of architecture: the high interior dominated by the long axis of the nave and the articulated and pedimented façade would not be out of place in Italy. The interior decoration is pure Byzantine, however—a (now very darkened) masterpiece of late Byzantine painting in which the scenes and figures are perfectly disposed across the architecture according to the canonical iconographic plan. This is the work of the painter, Markos of Argos and was completed in 1735, after the founder’s death in 1707. The chapel of Aghios Nikolaos immediately to the south (curously separated from the main catholicon by a steep staircase which ascends to the belfry between the two buildings) contains the tomb of Hosios Lavrentios. Its sober façade in white marble, with a wide mezza-luna above the door, framed by a simple cornice and the row of carved rosettes above, also show a strong Italian Renaissance influence. The monastery buildings became a refuge for women and children during the 1821 revolution and functioned as a hospital for the injured soldiers of the Greek army. Though founded as a male monastery, it became a convent for nuns in 1944.
Before leaving, it is worth noting the main doors to the monastery, constructed with wooden beams and revetted in bronze on the exterior. The original, swinging and sliding cross-beam for barring the gate is still in function. The exterior is dressed with a wide frame in Pentelic marble.
At the shore below the monastery, a small memorial bust commemorates the life of the poet Angelos Sikelianos (1884–1951); the solitary house on the water’s edge to the east, recently restored, was his last home. Sikelianos was an exceptional lyric poet, whose poems can have an of ten oracular intensity and beauty to them. He was also a playwright, and friend of Nikos Kazantzakis. He revived the ‘Delphic Festival’ at Delphi in 1927, in a conscious at tempt to reunite modern Greek culture with its ancient roots, and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize for literature. He is one of the most distinctive voices of 20th century Greek poetry and deserves to be better known than he is.
A kilometre and a half west of the Phaneromeni Monastery is the landing stage of the ferry-crossing to Nea Peramos (for Megara and Corinth) on the Attic coast opposite. On the hill directly to its south, an ancient enclosure wall has been identified as belonging to the fort of Boudoron, built by the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War as a defensive position to keep a watch on Mega ra, and mentioned more than once by Thucydides. There are also the vestiges of two other ancient watchtowers in the area overlooking the straits.
Salamis Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.