By returning back past Aghios Giorgios and Aghios Antonios at the end of the street, you come to steps which lead down towards an imposing low-lying church; as you approach, the conical rises and striking silhouette of its schist-tiled roof appear before you like a relief map of an island landscape. This is the church of the * Gennisi tou Christou (Nativity of Christ)—architecturally satisfying and highly unusual both inside and out.
The core of the church dates from the late 15th century, but a broad parallel nave, or parecclesion, has been added on the north side in the 19th century; on the south, the addition of the long low arcaded porch, which forms one side of an en closed courtyard, is a particularly beautiful feature, typical of the architecture of churches in northern Greece. The interior space of the church is dominated by a heterogeneous group of eight columns: two monolithic columns with early Byzantine capitals, two with undecorated capitals, and four extraordinary columns composed of drums at the west end. The floor incorporates an interesting orange/pink variety of stone, similar to portasanta marble from Chios: in fact it is native to the island and comes from the area of the promontory at Stafilos, where almost identical material can be seen in its natural state.
In the area of the Christouare a number of smaller churches worthy of mention. Returning to the main street or alley above its west end and the bell tower, the small chapel of Aghia Paraskevi is directly opposite; to right (north) is the 12th century church of Aghios Demetrios (20m on the left), with wall-paintings of later date inside; to left is Aghia Triada. Straight uphill past Aghia Paraskevi and along the first alley to the left is a simple vaulted chapel, probably of the 16th century, dedicated to the Gennisi tis Theotokou (the Nativity of the Virgin), sitting below the level of the path to the left after about 25m. Its principal interest lies in its wooden * iconostasis, which must have been created for the church about a century later. The screen is carved perhaps with more vitality than subtlety, and is gilded and painted: but it incorporates a fine series of 16th century tempera panels, depicting scenes from the lives of Christ and of the Virgin, which run along the top, each framed with a scallop shell fan above within an arch. The doors of the screen are also painted. This is a rare piece for its un-restored, original condition and the quality of its painting. The church has a couple of ancient fragments and part of a fluted column in the forecourt by the entrance door.
By returning once again to the Christouchurch and taking the path that goes downhill beside its arcaded south side, after five or six twists in the descent, you emerge at a church with a small shaded terrace to its south side and a pleasant view overlooking the port. This is the 11th century church of the Aghii Apostoli: its size, its single-aisle design, and its age are all similar to the church of Aghios Athanasios tou Kastrou (above). Inside are wall paintings of the 17th century: a fine row of saints along the south wall, with elaborate and richly painted robes. The plainness of the exterior of the east end which faces over the harbour is relieved by the inclusion of five, identical 16th century Iznik tiles, with prominent saz leaf design. These were trophies, acquired by sailors and merchants, and included as decoration.
By taking the alley-way out of the south corner of the terrace beside the church, and then descending to the left, you are confronted after 100m by one of the most remarkable churches in Chora—* Aghios Michail, whose exterior is a veritable museum of ancient fragments, sarcophagi, column sections and inscriptions.
Immediately visible are the large slabs of sarcophagus (c. 190 x 70 cm: 5 in total on the east and west façades, plus two lids immured to either side of the window over the west door), carved with bold designs of abstract ornamental forms based on garland and altar motifs. The pale purple volcanic stone from which they are carved (somewhat like a poor man’s porphyry) reveals their origin from Assos in Turkey, a little to the south of Troy. They are probably work of the 2nd or 1st century bc. The east end of the church in corporates other elements: part of a boss from a marble coffer, a run of egg and dart cornice, and an ancient marble slab with two rosettes, carved with a partially legible inscription of the 2nd century bc referring to a certain ‘Praxiteles, son of Praxiteles’. The corners of the church and the west front in corporate more ancient, largely white marble elements. The interior is unusually light; it contains fine icons and icon frames, and two large carved marble candlesticks.
At this point you are once again close the water front, dominated by the Demarcheion (Town Hall): it has a broad, low roof of schist ‘slates’ and a delicate first-floor balcony, giving pleasing relief to the façade.