Castle's Tour guide.


     According to general belief, the Kastro was founded in the 14th century about 1360.  Because  of  the  many  pirates  in  the  area the  people  of  Skiathos  deserted  the  Byzantine town  of  Skiathos ,which was  located  where  the town  is today, and built the medieval fortress, the  Kastro. Since the fortress could  not be  approached  by  sea and  the only  entrance  was  by  the wooden drawbridge, the fortress ensured relative  safety  for  the residents. 
     The Kastro was more of a natural fortress rather than man-made. The three sides  of the  fortress facing  the  sea  were  reinforced with  relatively small walls, while  the point at  which the Kastro connects  to   land is  reinforced  with  wide  walls. At the entrance, there was a huge cauldron which the residents would fill with boiling oil. If the residents were attacked they would pour scald the attackers. There was also a tower which housed cannon. The small houses in the fortress were built very close to each other. It is  said  that  there  were 400 houses while  the  population  of  the  fortress  ranged  from  500 to  1500 people. There were also about 20 churches in the four parishes, water tanks, baths, and the Kagkelaria, which housed the authorities of the island. The Turkish headquarters and the mosque were built during the Ottoman Occupation.   There were also two defense towers and small fire towers.

     In  1829 the people of Skiathos deserted  the  fortress and  returned to the  old  Byzantine  town, which  is  where  the  town  is  located  today. When  the  residents  left,  not only  did  they  take their  personal belongings but also any  building  materials they  could  use  again  such  as  doors, windows, and wood  casings, roofing  materials and  wood. The Kastro was totally abandoned.  Of the about twenty churches and the 500 houses,  only two parish churches, the Church of the Nativity and the Church of St. Nicholaos, survived the years. Two other churches, the Church dedicated to St. Vasilios and the other dedicated to St. Marina, the mosque, the Turkish headquarters, the potable water and the rain water storage tanks, the entrance and the hot oil cauldron as  well as  the walls  around the fortress were repaired  while the  cannon slits  in  the  wall on the north end are in  good  condition.


     Among the cobblestones in the path a few metres from the Kastro, one can make out round indentations similar to those of a horse’s hoof. According to local folklore, these are the prints of St. George’s horse’s hooves. The residents of the Kastro, it is said, would hear the horse walking during the night. It is said there was a small church dedicated to St George near the entrance to the Kastro but exactly where is unknown. Another popular explanation is that the prints are those of “Christ’s horse”


     Little is known of this monastery. Based on architectural and technical characteristics it is believed that the monastery was founded between the 15th and 16th century. The only written reference to the monastery is that of Konstandinos Manolakis who gave half of the island of Tsougria to the Monastery in 1764. It is not known when the monastery was abandoned. It was probably destroyed during the pre-revolutionary movement.


     The rocky peninsular on which the Kastro was built prevented anyone from entering the Kastro. The only entrance to the Kastro was by the wooden drawbridge which connected the two ends of the wall.  Every night and when conditions warranted the guards at the entrance would draw the bridge towards the Kastro thus preventing anyone from entering.

“How many times, my deserted town, oh Kastro, have I crossed this old shaky wooden bridge, my heart beating wildly, with my old grandma in order to light the silver votive candles at the Church of Christ and to follow the liturgy and later partake of  wild greens” (Alexandros  Moraitides, Altanou)


The entrance to the Kastro was the main defense point since it was the only point of entry to the fortress. There was a stone carving stating the renovation of the entrance in 1619 but which collapsed during the earthquake of 1989.  The other method of defense was the use of a cauldron of boiling oil.  The residents would empty the cauldron of boiling oil on any invaders.  According to local folklore the residents would dance on the “flattop terrace” of the gate. 

     The “Kioski”, where the elders of the island congregated, was next to the gate.

     “The terrace stood above the iron gate, a tall structure with slits in the walls for guns and the essential “hot room” with its even large slit from which, as a weapon of last resort, the men inside could threaten to scald with boiling oil anyone attempting to enter the gate below. The Kioski was a small pavilion where the elders congregated and deliberated or just sat and talked amid their long, snaking water pipes, with their ornate sleeves and embroidered belts” ( Alexandros Papadiamandis, The Poor Saint”)


     The Kastro was under Byzantine control from 1360 until the Turkish Occupation. In 1453 the Venetians were responsible for the Kastro.  The Kapoudan Pashas of the Turkish Hayreddin Barbarossa fleet conquered the Kastro in 1538.  The Kastro remained under Turkish occupation until 1821 except for a short time in 1660 when Francesco Morosini conquered the Kastro and the Venetians were again in control of it. During the Turkish occupation, the Turkish headquarters and mosque were built for the needs of the Aga and the few Turks who lived on the island. Alexandros Papadiamandis describes in his narrative “The Bewitching of the Aga” the deserted mosque as a skeleton which at one time was full of life with sounds of prayers and other activities.


      The church, in ruins today, was built in the 17th century. The icon of the 12 Apostles is the only thing which remains of the church.

‘PANAGIA’ (Virgin Mary) PREKLA

     The old church dedicated to the Dorminion of the Virgin Mary was built about the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th. The name Prekla is probably derived from the Latin preclarus (most glorious). Alexandros Papadiamandis’ narrative “Memories of the 15th of August is set in this church.  In recent years, an outdoor night service is held on the Saturday after the 15th of August.

     “the church was wonderfully decorated and there were beautiful icons, especially the icon of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Prekla the gold sculptured icon screen in front of the altar, chandelier, silver hanging oil votives and standing bronze candle holders...”

     “In the past, before 1821, when the now deserted and ruined  town was still inhabited, all the residents of  the two parishes would go to the church during the first 15 days of August to hear the prayers and chants” ( Alexandros Papadiamandis,  “Memories of the 15th of August”)


     The church of the Nativity was the main church in the medieval fortress and the episcopacy of the bishop of Skiathos.  Based on the icons, architectural and technical characteristics, it is believed the church was built around the middle of the 17th century.  It was repaired and renovated at regular intervals. The original church had been built much earlier since it had been the cathedral of the Kastro since the 14th century.  The iconostasis in front of the altar consists of two sections - one dating back to the 17th century (1695) and the other section 50 or 60 years later. The icons of the iconostasis have been moved to the parish churches in the present day town of Skiathos.  The icons depicting Christ, The Virgin Mary, the Nativity of Christ, the Beheading of John the Baptist and the icons of Saints Kosmas and Diamianos called ‘‘Anargiroi’’ as well as the door leading to the altar are kept at the church of Panagia Limnia in the present day town of Skiathos.  The icon depicting Christ and the other depicting The Virgin Mary date back to 1652 and 1657 respectively and are works of Deacon Antonios the Cretan who worked in Skopelos until about 1730. He also did the icon painting on the door leading to the altar which depicts the Annunciation. The icon depicting the Nativity of Christ is dedicated in 1779 by a skiathian clergyman called Ananias, which was ordained Bishop of Kea (Tzia) island in Cyclades. The series of icons depicting the twelve important events in the life of Christ and the icon of The Great Deesis found on of the upper section of the iconostasis in front of the altar, work of Antonios the Cretan, as well as the Choir of the Prophets, a series of 26 icons of the Virgin and the Prophets, depicted into a circular wooden construction are kept at the Cathedral of the Tree Hierarchs in the present day town of Skiathos. The wall paintings were done between 1650 and 1740.
      Night Vigils are held twice a year (on August 5th and the 26th of December, weather permitting).
      Alexandros Papadiamandis describes the church in his narrative “The Church Of The Nativity At Kastro


     The church dedicated to St. Nikolaos, one of the four parishes in the fortress, was built in the 17th century.  In the later years of the Kastro the wealthy families lived in the parish.
       Night Vigils are held twice a year (on the 5th of December and the 19th of May).


  The church dedicated to St. Vasilios, one of the four parishes in the fortress, was built in the 16th or 17th century.  It was renovated in 1995. 
     A liturgy service at the church is held on the second Saturday after Easter.


     The church dedicated to The Virgin is in ruins but is said to have been built in the 17th century. The church was celebrated on a feast of Virgin Mary during the Lent, on Saturday two weeks before Holy Saturday.
Alexandros Papadiamandis mentions the church in his narrative “The Impact”

A Vigil is taking place at the ruins of Virgin Mairys' Church called Megalomata, the last weekend of July.


     The church dedicated to St. Marina is one of the four parishes of the fortress. A small banner depicting the Resurrection which in one corner presents St. Marina and an icon depicting St. Marina are the only things which remain of the church.  The church was renovated and repaired in 1950.
     A night vigil is held on July 16.


     The uppermost part of the Kastro, known as Barberaki, was the main point of defense since all of the surrounding area could be seen from that point.  The cannon placed on a revolving base was used to defend the fortress. 


     The potable water storage tank located at the entrance to the fortress was filled by the residents of the fortress. They would bring water from the various springs on the island to the fortress and fill the tank. There were records of how much water each family was allotted and how much they used.
     The building near the ruins of Panagia Megalomata was also used as a storage tank for potable water. It is not known whether the two storage tanks were somehow connected by a system of pipes.
      There was also a storage tank for rainwater behind the Church of the Nativity. The interior of the tank was lined with porcelain.

     The life of the residents of the fortress during the five hundred years they lived there was quite difficult. Life became more difficult during the period when piracy reached its peak. The town was plundered by Turkish and Greek pirates until 1829. In 1771, Alexios Orlov plundered the Sporades while Georgis Tzogkanos invaded the Kastro and plundered, burnt the Kagkelaria of the island and the records of the fortress.    The residents suffered from the Olympious rebels, the Liapides, who settled on the island in the 19th century.  Karatassos controlled the fortress in 1821. 
     The Venetians and the Turks who had each, in turn, taken control of the fortress never offered the residents of the fortress safety.  Some of the Venetians were so oppressive and cruel toward the residents that in frustration the residents turned to Hayreddin Barbarossa, killing the Venetian governor something they paid for dearly with their lives. The lives of the residents didn’t improve under the control of the Turks. The residents had to pay a tax of 18,000 turkish grossi (kuruş) every year.  There was compulsory service in the Turkish fleet which was later replaced by a tax.  During the later years of the Turkish Occupation, the residents of the fortress took up shipping obtaining their own ships.  Many of them participated in the pre-revolutionary movements or rebellion of 1821. 

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