Viewed from the south, the Castle of the Knights of St John incorporates a bastion in (massive, but irregular) 5th century bc masonry from the ancient acropolis of Syme, on which once stood a Temple to Athena; abutting it to the left is a semicircular redoubt built by the Knights and bearing the arms of Pierre d’Aubusson as well as the date 1507 which was, in fact, four years after d’Aubusson’s death. There are two further redoubts which face east and northeast. These are all later fortifications to the earlier castle of 1407 which remarkably withstood a siege by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1457. On the summit stands the church of the Panaghia tou Kastrou (the ‘Greater’—so as to distinguish it from the ‘Lesser’ below): this church was originally dedicated to Aghios Giorgios, but it took the name of the original Panaghia church to the south after that was destroyed by German forces in 1944. To right and left of the entrance door are Hospitaller escutcheons in stone, taken from the walls of the castle. Inside the church is the renowned and beautiful icon of the Second Coming by the late 16th century Cretan artist, Giorgios Klontzas. To one side of the church’s belfry hangs an anomalous bell made from the nose of an enemy bomb. Around the perimeter of the area cluster two other small chapels; that on the north has a small (recent) mural, and a painted prothesis niche whch would seem to indicate that it was perhaps once more fully decorated with painting. Although, from the Hospitallers’ point of view, the castle was not especially practical for signalling purposes, the panorama from its heights is spectacular, including in its sweep the coast of Asia Minor, Gialos, the bay of Pedhi and the ridge in between with its line of windmills which culminate in some unusual ancient remains, towards which this itinerary is now directed. Below the castle, to the east, is the church of the Panaghia Katomenia (the ‘Lesser’ or ‘Lower’). Its interior is modern but contains a finely carved iconostasis, throne, pulpit and lectern; although gilded and painted, these have much greater lightness because they are not varnished. Further to the northeast is the (now superannuated) Old Pharmacy building—a memorable piece of Symiot neoclassical architecture, complete with 19th century fitments in the interior and a makeshift operating room behind. Together with the creation of the public ‘Reading Rooms’ in Gialos and Chorio, this is an expression of the keen municipal civic-sense which characterised late 19th century Symi.

Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.

Symi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.

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