Μonuments of Kythera

Kythera is one of the places of Greece with archaeological and architectural wealth. 

In recent and distant past archaeological excavations were conducted in many parts of the island with satisfactory findings. The areas where archaeological investigations took place were Chora (location Lionis) Kastri Palaiopolis Diakofti,  Karava and elsewhere. During the years 1963-1965 conducted the most important surveys in Kastri area from British and American archaeologists, who uncovered a remarkable settlement of Minoan era and also during the years 1995-97 by Professor I. Sakelaraki at  the Agio Georgo location at  Bouno (St. George on the Mountain) where discovered unlooted Peak Sanctuary of Minoan era. Eighty four (84) small sculptures there were found and many other interesting items. Excavations also conducted by archaeologist Aris Tsaravopoulos in Cave Chousti at Diakofti that produced mainly several prehistoric findings but also from other eras, similarly in Paleocastro and Karava. 
In addition to the excavations and the archaeological objects that found, in Kythera there are many monuments of particular importance, mainly of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine era. 

Of great importance is the ruined Byzantine settlement of Paleochora (St. Demetrius) that looks like Mystras, but of lesser scale. It was the capital of the island from the 13th century to the 16th century. Then it was destroyed in 1537 by the pirate and the Admiral of the Turkish fleet Barbarossa. In Paleochora there are ruins of many houses and of 23 churches, of which the best preserved is that of St. Antonios and St. Barbara (Agios Antonios and Agia Barbara). Moreover, is recently restored the highest part of the preserved castle walls, the so called "Castle."

Also remarkable is the Castle of Mylopotamos, probably  constructed in 16th century, which maintains many houses and several churches, most important of which is St. John the Baptist, which dates back in around 1510-1518 A. C.


In Avlemonas, during Venetian era (1725) was built a small fort  (Castello) to protect the ships docked there from pirates’ attacks or other hostile forces. 

Of particular importance are the frescoes of the Byzantine churches scattered almost everywhere in the island. Unfortunately, there are not opened and are inaccessible to the general public, that may be able to visit some of them, after arrangement with the archaeological keepers.

These churches are in total 37, but the most important are:

Agios Andreas (Saint Andrew) in Livadi with three phases of frescoes. The first from the late 10th – to the early 11th century. The second of the 13th century and the third of the 16th to the 17th century. 

Agios Dimitrios (St. Dimitrios) in Pourko: a cluster of four Churches that together form a quadrilateral shape, with an entrance door from the west. In accordance with the tradition the southern church is dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the northeast to the Holy Virgin, the north to Saint Nikolas and the southwest to Archangel Michael or St. Basil. It is rescued on the founding inscription of the 13th century the name of the painter Demetrius, archdeacon of Monemvasia and the frescoes of the cluster that dated back to 13th up to 18th century. 

Agios Petros (Saint Peter) in Araious is a cross-transition type church with an octagonal dome. Without narthex and dates back to the 13th century. Are rescued layers of Byzantine frescoes. At this monument have completed the work fixing the wall and restoring the frescoes from the First Curative Department of Byzantine Antiquities. 

Agios Nikon in Zaglanikianika is a single -space  square church of the so-called Kytherian type with a few frescoes dating back in the 13th century. There are also a few Byzantine icons of the 16th century. 

Agia Barbara (Saint Barbara) in Paleochora The post cruciform church with dome and no frescoes dominates the Byzantine castle of St. Barbara in Paleochora and stands out for its slender proportions, the high octagonal dome and its characteristic roofing made of local  slate (cheloplaka ).  

The Holy Shrines of Kythera worth of particular attention, although all are built after  the 18th century.

Panagia (Holy Virgin) Myrtidiotissa built in the middle of 19th century, by the abbot Agathaggelo Kaligero, it is the most important pilgrimage of Kythera and its reputation is far from National and nowadays is wide spread from the Kytherian Diaspora in Australia and America. 

The monastery complex of Myrtidion consists of a) the Catholic at the center of a typical building of aisled basilica, in which is only raised the central aisle, with narthex and women loft. In the lower level there is the original Church of the Virgin Mary, b) cells arranged north and south of the Catholic, in which mainly host pilgrims for fasting the first 15 days of August (Dekapentismos), c) The belfry in the northeast of the Catholic is made of limestone with a total height of 26m. , with impressive arched formations on faces of all four floors, d) Naidrion of the Holy Trinity, one room, vaulted, post-Byzantine times. The original Church of Virgin Mary is adapted to the natural formation of a rocky opening in which there is a shallow niche in the north for hosting the icon of Holy Mary Myrtidiotissa, space that reminds where the Holy icon was found. Today, in the old church is the icon of Holy Myrtidiotissa with silver lining and inscription: For study and cost CK CK + X Monk and Abbot Kaloutzi, poem by Theofili Spithaki.

The newest Catholic, in its recent format, represents a three-aisled basilica with marble iconostasis and inscription that informs us that the painter came from Tinos in 1856. Impressive belfry in the North - West of the Catholic, height 26m., entirely made of limestone, decorated by the artist Nicholas Kythiris Fatsea (Fouriari) in 1888. Cells arranged north and south of the Catholic in which are hosted pilgrims (dekapentistes) for the 15 day fasting of August.
According to the tradition the icon found in the year 1160 or in the 15th century by a shepherd, the scene of region of the present monastery surrounded by myrtle plants and the shepherd incorporated in the lower zone of the garment of the icon created by the Nicholas Theofilos Spithaki in 1837, as we learn from the inscription engraved on the garment. Commemorates the 24th of September.

The Agia Moni:  The inscription on the lintel of the western Catholic Monastery informs: Begins the restoration of the Holy Church of Agia Moni in the year 1840 by diligence and direction of Bishop Prokopios Kallonas".
The restoration of the monastery is associated with the vow of Marshal Theodoros Kolokotronis before the National Revolution of 1821 when visited the Monastery. Inside the temple an inscription, dated in 1868, informs us about the care of the monastery even today.

In the area of the Monastery residues earlier buildings (probably of the 17th century).
In the Monastery the icon of the Virgin with silver cloth is preserved, on marble iconostasis. In the garment is engraved the name of the Virgin "As The Only Hope”. The wooden iconostasis is carved with the inscription: "Donation of John Argyris July 1841."  Celebrates on 6th August (Celebration of the Transfiguration of Christ). 
In the churchyard, just after the entrance to the sanctuary pilgrimage there a marble slab with a quote of Memoirs of Theodoros Kolokotronis, which refers to his visit to the holy place and the vow that the claimed God to fulfill. North and West of the church there are cells in where stay pilgrims from 1-15 August dekapentizoun", while on the north side of the temple is erected marvelous limestone belfry. The view from Agia Moni to Diakofti and central Kythera is unique. 

Agia (St.) Elesa’ Church is erected in 1871 in the place of an older temple. It is large single space basilica. Newer cells were built to the north and west of the temple. Just before 50 years in the northtwest side was built a three store belfry. In the southern wall of the Temple attributed to the contemporary figure with the central theme of Agia Elesa, a bust surrounded by twelve scenes of her life and martyrdom. To the southwest of the church is pointed the position of the tree where hung her father, because he refused the ancient religion and embraced Christianity. Today a small shrine has been built in this position. She is a local Saint that martyred in 375 A.C. on Kythera and her memory is celebrated on 1rst of August.

Agios (St.) Theodoros (13th Century): St. Theodoros, the Holy protector of Kythera was born in Koroni between 870-890 A.C. He grew up and studied in Nafplion, where he married and had two children. His desire to become a monk brought him to Rome and then to Monemvasia. From there came to Kythera around the year 921, when the island was ”deserted and uninhabited” due to Saracen attacks from Crete. He lived as a monk in the old Christian Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. In the year 922, on 12th of May, the Saint Theodoros died, shortly after his death sailors found His intact relic. Three years later, in 925, Monemvasians buried His relic. The old church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus rebuilt by Monemvasians and dedicated to Saint Theodoros. Over the time there created a monastery, which acquired property and is cultivated by priests, monks and seculars. The chronicle of Kytherian monk Cheala is the most valuable source for the history of the monastery. It is a report-reference to Venier (Venetian rulers of Kythera), which was written approximately in 1460 A.C.  Around the year 1630 Bishop of Kythera Athanasius Valerianos restored the Temple and made several alterations and additions.

The pilgrimage of Agion Anargiron in Xeroulaki is the oldest monastery in the east, and in accordance with the existing inscription on the lintel of the precinct was built in the year 1825. The enclosure of the monastery associated with the earliest phase of the monument, from which ruined cells can be seen, that of the old Catholic south of the recent. Also seen the west side dome with two doors and at the east of the ruins of niche. Moreover are preserved ruins of a tower with loopholes. According to hereditary order in the monastery is always on duty a priest from the family Megalokonomou or Metaxa, to them belongs the property. In iconostasis in the central nave of the modern church is kept the Saints Anargiron’ icon, with a silver lining, in performance of the 19 th century. Commemorates on 1rst of July and on 1rst of November. 


Orphan Holy Virgin of Mylopotamou : The pilgrimage is located 3 km NW of Mylopotamos, amidst a landscape of cedars, oaks and holly. The Temple is integrated into a cave with length of 8m. and width of 7m. and cells. According to the tradition is associated with the family of John Darmarou. In the western part of the cave is a long and low extension with traces of the Altar, where the priest used to operate. In this place was found the icon of Holy Virgin the Merciful, called Orphan. Today this finding is abandoned. 

The icon bears a silver lining and is located in the Temple, also the huge icon of Holy Virgin the Merciful and Orphan, with a silver lining, created by Nicholas Theofilos Spithaki in 1837. The Holy Step is triunity, with the catholic in the middle of Holy Mary, St. George at the left and the three Holy patrons of the Ionian islands Spyridon, Gerasimos and Dionysios at the right. The Pilgrimage has five cells, one of which is a hostel and the other a dining room. 

The memory of Mary Orphan is celebrated on 15th and 23rd of August.

Agios Ioannis (Saint John) on the Cliff (17 th century): at a height of about 60m., climbing 12 steps, we reach the entrance door of the complex, where we find the renovation - inscription of the monastery by a monk named Ioannikio Sannino in 1725. Through stoned stairs we enter to the arched portico of length 6m. and 2m height, above which was built a guest house divided into two rooms (cells) and a galley. Above the exit of the gallery there is another inscription illegible that rescues the 'fundamental' and refers to the first erection. According to the oral tradition the original guest house was built in 1600 approximately and housed five to six monks. In contact with the quest house there is small tank. Continuing the climbing we face a small cave. At the right are seen the end of the cliff, building foundations, possibly from the older church of St. John the Baptist. On the sanctuary Missal of 1857 is an inscription stating that this cave inspired Saint John the Theologian for the Revelation and states that the monastery was celebrated the Nativity of John the Baptist. 
This climbing is advisable to take place in the afternoons when the temperature drops.

The Crucified Christ  in Chora (17 th century): The Church of  Crucifix was built around the year 1660 by the Bishop of Kythera Philotheos Darmaro. From a written testimony of 1560, seems that also existed before a temple of the Crucified. At the entrance of the Temple there is a walled inscription with the escutcheon of Darmarou family. The bishop himself, Philotheos, built and Notre Myrtidiotissa in  Monemvasia. Within the temple and in the forecourt are buried the family members of Darmarou that still have the property of the Temple (jus patronato of the Temple), also burried other parishioners, including many refugees from Crete and the Morea. The Church is dedicated to Crucifixion and the day for the Temple is the Good Friday with the characteristic hymn "Bought us from the curse of the law ...". During Lent the church hosts, according to an older custom, the icon of Mirtidiotissa, which is the most precious curio of Kythera. The icon remains in the Temple until Easter Monday and placed in the ornate shrine, that is the work of a Zakynthian artist made in 1806. 

It is a single-nave vaulted church, rather small, with a small women loft which is accessed by stairs from the door, located on the NW side. Particularly important is the ornate wooden temple, which was restored in 2012. There is also a small limestone belfry, above the main entrance of the temple, on the north side. 

Panagia Virgin Myrtidiotissa and Panagia Virgin Orphan in the Castle of Chora: The Temple Mirtidiotissa dates back in 1580, originally belonged to the Catholic doctrine, serving the few Catholic Venetian officials of Kythera. It was known as "The Lady of the Latins." Later in 1806 inaugurated as the name of orthodox Myrtidiotissa. Next is the "Holy Orphan Virgin”  church that belongs to Kallona family, in which were kept the icon and heirlooms of the Monastery of Agarathos from Heraklion Crete for 300 years, since Crete fell to the Turks, i.e. in 1669. For two centuries or so, in the church Mirtidiotissa also kept Her icon, for fear of pirates. Since 1842 the icon returned in the pilgrimage of Myrtidion and in the Castle remains a copy from the year 1844. 
On the south side there is a belfry, while outside the church are old Venetian artillery. 

Agios (St.) Panteleimon in Paleopoli: In the small single-nave church of St. Panteleimon is preserved an early Christian basilica apse, is vaulted, with subsequent buttresses on the south side. Now are taking place immediate measures of protection by the 1rst Byzantine Curative Antiquities. So far the eastern part of the church has been restored that probably dates back to the 6th or 7th century A.C. Commemorates  on the 27th July and is open to visitors during this day. 

Agios (St.) Georgos of Vouno (Mountain): This complex consists of two Temples. The Eastern Church by tradition is dedicated to St. George, is single = space and on its floor is preserved a mosaic dated to the 7th century and attaches a hunting scene. The western single room domed church, Kytherian type, (Kytherian type churches exist only in Kythera and are one-cubic upon which is built the dome) is dedicated to the Virgin Myrtidiotissa and Agios Nikolaos (disypostatos Temple). On the slope of the hill was detected and revealed a sacred Minoan peak, in which were made important excavations by the late professor John SAKELLARAKIS. There were found many Minoan figurines, pottery and plate of Linear A’.  The excavations continue today with the care and under the responsibility of the University of Peloponnese. 

Other churches that visitors can see in Kythera is Saint Nicholas in Avlemona, Saint Theodore in Alozianika, Saint Theodore in Pitsinades,  Saint Nikolaos in Kalameatsi, the Monastery of the Kaki Melissa in  Livadi, Panagia Despoina in Karavas, Panagia Conteletou in Livadi, Panagia in Kakopetros in Chora, Prophet Elias in Mylopotamo, the Church of Agios Soteras (Holy Saviour) in Aroniadika, Saint Nikitas in Kalamos, etc. 
Moreover, particular aesthetic are many spiers in several Churches of the 19 th century. Such examples can be seen in Kontolianika, in Aloizianika, in Strapodi in Katouni, in theKypriotianika, in the Aroniadika and elsewhere. 

Particularly important is the monument the stone bridge in Katouni. Is made of 13 arches and 12 lockers. Its length is 110 m, the maximum height is 15 m and its width of 6 m. Constructed in 1826 and is the largest engineering project of the era of British rule in Kythera. 

Particularly important monument is also the Lighthouse in Moudario The lighthouse was built in 1901. The height of tower is 25 meters and the focal height is 110 meters. It was built by the British to facilitate navigation in the sea area between Kythera and Elafonissos. The lighthouse is located in cape Spathi which is the northernmost point of Kythera, near Karava and beside the beach Agios Nikolaos.  

Finally, the retained buildings are worthy to note of British period which were constructed in the first fourth of the 19 th century to serve as schools. The most important are: The Milapidea (NW of Livadi), the School in Lower Chora Mylopotamou, in Fratsia, in Saint Theodoros, the school is now in use as abbot as well as the one in Potamos.