North loop of the island
(Livadi = 0.0km for distances in the text) The route to the north of the island from the port at Livadi, passes Chora and climbs to a height of 500m in the space of 8 km. After the watershed, which offers wide views to Syros and Paros, it descends to the village of Panaghia, which takes its name from the interesting 10th century church at its centre (key is kept in the village shop to northeast of the church). The village has a mediaeval core, surrounded by modern dwellings, and it seems that the quadrangle of older structures around the church are in fact constructed over the monastery buildings which once surrounded the church. The church would have been the monastery’s catholicon. The spring here would have been the reason for the choice of site.
The two marble columns before the west door suggest the church had a different plan originally, and may have extended—perhaps by means of a portico—further west: two fur ther identical columns support arches in the aisle inside. The wall-paintings are in poor condition and therefore difficult to date, but they possess stylistic traits of the 13th century. In the past a clumsy attempt has been made to ‘clean’ them of soot, the effect of which has been to remove much of the colour. Behind the iconostasis the chromatic range is better conserved, as well as in the right-hand portion of a Resurrection, on the north wall of the crossing, in which a group of sleeping, fully-armed centurions can be made out beside the Sepulchre. In the central apse is the marble throne and synthronon suggesting that this may have been the see of the Orthodox bishop in the 10th century. The marble step in front of the Royal Doors (lift carpet) is beautifully carved and must be a part of the original fabric of the church—per haps from its sanctuary screen.
A pleasant walk from Panaghia can be made to one of the island’s oldest rural chapels—Aghios Stephanos—to the west (reached by the upper of two paths leading west from the village; after 15 minutes the church can be seen on a small rock outcrop below the path). This is a flat roofed 11th century oratory with small traces of murals appearing from under the whitewash, and an altar which is formed by an antique capital on a spiral fluted column fragment.
The landscape around Panaghia bears the marks of centuries of meticulous husbanding—small stone dove cotes, threshing-floors, isolated rural habitations and ubiquitous terracing that descends from peak to shore down the steep ravines as far as the eye can see. Two small conical hills below bear the remains of now abandoned settlements.
To the east is the steeply sloping village of Galani (14km). The focus of this remote part of the island, how ever, is the whitewashed bulk of the monastery of the Taxiarches (15km). (Generally closed, but the one surviving monk, Makarios (T. 22810 51027), opens the monastery early in the morning and towards sunset every day when he comes to feed the animals.) A flight of stone steps now leads up to the low doorway which originally would have been accessible only by a wooden ladder: above it is an improvised machicolation, with others visible at vulnerable points round the circumference of the building. This and the fortress-like exterior were necessary precautions against pirate attack in such an isolated position. The spotless courtyard inside is tightly filled by the catholicon and an ancient spreading pine-tree. The plain façade is embellished only by a decorated belfry and an intricately, but rather harshly, carved marble door-frame bearing the date 1447—the year of the original foundation of a church on this site; the existing monastery buildings are predominantly of the 17th and 18th centuries. The catholicon is spacious inside, and decorated with 17th century wall-paintings, including a graphic reminder of the torments of hell. Most attractive is the wooden iconostasis with beautiful icons by Emmanuel Skordili, a 17th century, Cretan icon-painter of great elegance, whose style fuses Orthodox tradition with a softer and richer Venetian influence.
East of the monastery the road turns south to Kentarchos, or ‘Kallisos’ (17km), built around a spring on the steep eastern slopes of the island, where there are the remains of a vaulted Roman tomb believed to have be longed to a Roman Centurion of the 1st century AD.
To the northeast, out to sea, is the sharp outline of the islet of Seriphopoula (1.86sq km). In spite of its exposed position and difficulty of access, the island appears to have been inhabited in the Late Neolithic period: surface finds include an obsidian arrowhead and other blades, as well as fragments of prehistoric vases. It is far from clear what these early inhabitants would have done for fresh water on Seriphopoula. Steep cliffs rise to the summit (192m) which is crowned by the base of a rectangular Hellenistic look-out tower, where the immediate problem of fresh water was resolved by a plastered cistern below the floor of the building. The tower surveyed the metal trading sea-routes to and from Seriphos and Siphnos.
A new extension of road beyond Kentarchos follows the folded contours of the east coast and descends to the popular, sandy bay of Psili Ammos (21km). Here it joins the old road again, at a distance of 3.5km from Livadi. On this last stretch of road, the unimpeded view of Chora’s white buildings from the east, breaking like surf around the volcanic peak of the kastro, with bare valleys below and the bare mass of Mount Petrias behind, is particularly memorable.
Seriphos or Serifos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.