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The Historical Monuments of Kythera

Paleokastro

Paleokastro was the capital of Greece during the Greek Antiquity.  It is located on a hill near Paleopoli and shows signs of dwellings dating back to the Geometric Period.  In 1999 Kytherean professor and archaeologist Ioannis Petrocheilos did some archaeological digs at the top of Paleokastro hill, near the church of Agios Georgios (altitude: 323 m).  The excavation revealed a sanctuary that was used from the Geometric Period up until the Hellenistic years.  The studies carried out imply that it could be a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Venus. In Paleokastro there are also many ruins of buildings and walls of the old capital city and its acropolis.  Objects discovered in the archaeological digs include vessels, incense burners, and bronze items (rings, buckles, etc.).  The excavations continued for a few years.

Paleopolis - Skandia

Near Paleopoli used to stand the ancient port of Scandia, the main port of Paleokastro, Kythera's capital city in the Antiquity.  The port was destroyed by an earthquake in 375 B.C. Archaeological digs revealed some old tombs, which can be visited by anyone interested.

Minoan Peak Sanctuary

In 1992 archaeologist Ioannis Sakelarakis and his team discovered a Minoan peak sanctuary in front of the church of Agios Giorgis sto Vouno which had not been plundered in the past. Minoans used this sanctuary to watch the Sea of Kythera.  Furthermore, thanks to a fire signal system, they were able to transmit messages from Peloponnese to Crete, and this sanctuary served as the main relay. The archaeological digs unearthed utensils made of ceramic and stone, some jars, small statues that were given as offerings, etc.

Mikri Dragonara (Antidragonera)

A small islet to the east of Kythera, where there is a sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon, god of the earth and earthquakes.  The archaeological digs led by archaeologist Aris Tsaravopoulos and his team in the late 1990s unearthed hundreds of coins dating back to the Hellenistic era that came from 54 cities and kingdoms in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, as well as some vases and amphorae that were given as offerings.  The undersea excavations that took place under the stewardship of archaeologist Dimitrions Kourkoumelis revealed nine stone anchors at the bottom of the sea, four of which are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Kythera.

The cave of Chousti and the sanctuary

The cave of Chousti is located in Diakofti, Kythera's main port.  The cave is located directly beneath the earth and has a surface area of approximately 800 m².  A major archaeological study was initiated in 1998, thanks to which many objects belonging to several eras were discovered, the oldest ones being some pieces of ceramic dating back to 3800 B.C. Studies showed that the cave was used mostly as a place of worship of the goddess Venus.  Outside the cave, going towards the village, are the ruins of another sanctuary.

Castello, the fortified castle of Agios Frangiskos

The Sea of Kythera is the western gateway to the Aegean Sea. It is often rough, which makes crossing it both difficult and dangerous.  Specifically, Cavo Maleas, the southeast cape of Peloponnese, is one of the most dangerous in Greece. This is why it was necessary to have a harbor in Kythera to allow ships to find shelter in case of a rough sea.  The port of Kastri, in the gulf of the former city of Scandia, and the one in Agios Nikolaos, both served as safe ports in the Antiquity.

West of the gulf of Avlemonas is a Venetian castle called Castello, the fortified castle of Agios Frangiskos.  It was erected in 1565 by the Venetians in order to control the island and protect it from foreign invasions. Castello was renovated some 10 years ago.  It has an octagonal lay-out and features openings for cannons, archways, a central tower, lofts and cannons. The excavations that preceded the restoration revealed a sewage system.


The castle of Chora

The best preserved castle on the island.  It was erected in the 13th century by the Veniers but it is very likely that it was built on the ruins of an old fort.  It was restored in 1503 by the Venetians.  It is made up of two parts, namely the inner castle and a more extensive outer wall that includes the area of Mesa Vourgos ("the inner town"). The inner castle includes the churches of Panagia Myrtidiotissa, Panagia Orfani, Pantokrator and Agios Ioannis.  Also to be found here is the Historical Archive of Kythera located in the palace (the building that served as headquarters) as well as some nobleman houses. In Mesa Vourgos, in addition to the many nobleman houses, there are 14 churches. On the castle's rockface, perched on the cliff, you will find a small yellow flower called "Sempreviva", which means "that lives forever".  The view from the top is gorgeous.

Paleochora

The Byzantine capital of the island was built in the 13th century.  Its former name was Agios Dimitrios and consisted of a fort built inside the cliff of Kakia Lagkada, with a single access point from the southwest.  This is a narrow space and houses were built one on top of the other.  According to the legend, there were some 70 churches but today only 21 remain.  Located inside a cliff this city-castle could not be seen from anywhere, and especially from the sea, thus avoiding any attacks by pirates.  However, in 1537, Hayreddin Barbarossa, a pirate that commanded the Ottoman fleet, resorted to cannons and managed to flatten the city, killing a large number of inhabitants and selling the rest as slaves.

Visiting Paleochora is a unique experience.  This wild and silent area will prove a source of amazement and wonder for visitors.  If we are to believe the inhabitants of Kythera, legends take body and soul during the night and you can hear the voices of the residents of Agios Dimitrios shrieking as the bombs launched by Barbarossa explode around them. The Byzantine architecture of the churches is quite surprising, the pièce de résistance being the temple of Agia Varvara, north of the city's entrance.  Watch the wild goats as they disregard the dangerous cliff rock while searching for food.

With the proper gear and if you're looking for unique experiences, you can climb down the steep slope behind the church of Agia Varvara and walk along the cliff to the end. This is highly dangerous and you must be extremely careful.

Kato Chora

One of the three main towns in medieval times, together with Paleochora and the Castle of Chora. Kato Chora is a Venetian fortification that was built in 1565.  Inside is an area with several houses as well as churches adorned with Byzantine frescoes.  Atop the entrance of the castle you will note the Lion of St. Marc, symbol of the Venetian Republic, also known as the "Serenissima".


The bridge of Katouni

Built in 1826 during the British occupation this is one of the largest bridges ever built in Europe by the British: 110 m long, 6 m wide and 15 m high at its peak.  The bridge is supported on 13 arches and 12 small symmetrical galleries.  According to the story British legate Mackwell fell in love with a young girl who lived in the village of Katouni, and so he decided to build a bridge and scrutinized its construction as a way of justifying frequent visits to his beloved.  Actually, the bridge is part of a road that was supposed to connect the capital city of Kythera to the port of Avlemonas.  But the road was never finished, since the British left the island in 1864, when the Ionian Islands became part of Greece.  Today, this bridge is one of the most significant monuments of the island. 

The bridge of Potamos

This bridge was built in 1823 by British legate Mackwell.  It is supported on 7 arches and is made of stone and mortar.  It is 60 m long, 6.8 m wide and 7 m high at its peak.

The school of Milapidea

During the British occupation the island's occupying forces built several schools and forced the Kytherean people to make their children attend them.  Those who did not wish their offspring to receive an English education were required to pay heavy taxes and perform public works. The school of Milapidea overlooks the Livadi Valley and is typical of the island's British architecture.  Like the other British schools in Kythera it has been well preserved.

The lighthouse of Moudari

Built by the British in 1857 it is one of the largest in Greece. It is 25 m high and is located at Cape Spathi, at the northern tip of the island. You will need to walk a great distance should you wish to visit it. For more information talk to the people in Karavas. There is also a lighthouse keeper who might let you in. In the past, and in addition to the flashing light, flags were used as signals during the daytime for boats, kept in a building near the lighthouse. The place is stunningly beautiful. Weather permitting you can see the entire Gulf of Laconia, from Cape Maleas to Cape Tenaro.

Windmills

In Kythera as in most of the Greek islands there are many windmills. The windmills in Kythera were built in the 19th century and were used exclusively for agricultural production. The virtually constant presence of wind encouraged their use. These windmills can still be seen at the outskirts of villages, easily accessible and located next to fields in pairs or as single mills. They are made of stone and are 5 to 6 m wide and between 4.5 and 5.5 m high; the portal has a sandstone framing (porus). In Kythera the purpose of the windmills was to mill wheat grains. With the advent of electricity and the decline of agricultural production during the first half of the 20th century windmills were less often used, and the last one stopped operating in 1955.

Watermills

Most of the island's watermills can be found In the small valley near the village of Mylopotamos.  There are a total of 23 watermills but only 3 have been well preserved to this day.  All belong to private owners.  The name of the village, Mylopotamos, which translates as “river of mills” in Greek, comes from the concentration of such mills. The Mylopotamos valley has the most fertile lands of the island and is the richest in terms of river and stream water.  Water mills were used extensively during the British period and their owners were required to pay taxes in order to use them.  These mills were used to mill grain.  To increase the power the water was channeled and was further used to water nearby vegetable gardens.  There was also a network of paths several kilometers long that connected the mills to each other.  They were all abandoned in 1950, superseded by oil-driven mills.

In addition to the area surrounding Mylopotamos, Mills of this type can also be found in the valley of Ocheles (10 mills), the gorge of Tsakonas in Mitata, and the Karavas valley in Agia Pelagia.


ANATOMY OF A WATER MILL
  • The watermill consists of:
  • A tower to enable the flow of water from a sufficient height
  • Wheel
  • Milling room
  • Attic
  • Customer reception area
  • Owner’s house (mill operator)
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  • According to Hesiod’s myth Aphrodite was born in the sea of Kythera