Pyrgos and Profitis Elias

A newly-built road leads directly south from Chora, along the ridge of the pumice quarries towards Megalochori. As it begins to climb, the silhouette of Pyrgos can be seen to the southeast against the slopes of Mount Prophitis Elias; at 3.5km, a road leads east to the village. It is built in the classic manner of the Cycladic fortified settlement in which a ring of houses, whose outer-facing walls join to form the outer defensive enceinte, surrounds a central hilltop fortress: at Pyrgos, several almost concentric rings of streets ascend the hill in the space between, creating an interesting and attractive ensemble. The four surviving castles on the island, at oia, Skaros, Akrotiri, and Pyrgos, appear to have been created as a planned, interconnected unity, designed to survey and defend both the approaches to the island as well as its cultivable terrain; all are constructed in the same rough volcanic rock bound in pozzolana mortar. Pyrgos is the largest of them all and constituted the principal residence of the rulers and the island’s capital after the abandonment of Skaros. The church of the Koimisis (the Dormition) on the western slope of the town, may originally predate the Venetian arrival in 1207, suggesting that there was a Byzantine settlement here before: there are Byzantine and ancient spolia incorporated in its exterior walls. At the summit, is the 17th-century church of the Eisodiatis Theotokou (the Presentation of the Virgin). Just below, one of the island’s largest neoclassical mansions has been restored; it has the characteristic, high attic and mezzaluna above the door to maximise a cooling, natural ventilation. The restored church of Aghia Triada houses a small Icon Collection (open daily 10–4, Orthodox Easter–Oct). The icons date from the 16th to 19th centuries and include works by the Skordilis workshop on Milos. There are also other ecclesiastical items on display which were salvaged from churches in the aftermath of the 1956 earthquake.
   Below the summit of the mountain (567m), reached by following through Pyrgos and continuing to the south, is the Monastery of Prophitis Elias (9km), founded in 1711 and extensively restored after 1956. The monastery was home to an important ‘hidden school’ in the first half of the 19th century, keeping alive the teaching of Greek language and traditional religious and secular culture during the last years of Turkish occupation. The beauty of the panoramic position has been compromised by the quantity of telecommunications hardware at the summit of the mountain.

Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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