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.
THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST. GEORGE
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
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” St. George’s
THE HOLY MONASTERY OF THE ANNUNCIATION AT KALAMI- THE KASTRIOTISSA
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
Monastery in 1764. It is not known when the monastery was abandoned. It was
probably destroyed during the pre-revolutionary movement. island
THE WOODEN DRAWBRIDGE
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 GATE
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 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 DEDICATED TO THE APOSTLES
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 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 AT KASTRO
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
. 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 Skiathos 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
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).
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 CANNON OF ANAGKIAS
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
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 RUINS OF THE KAGKELARIA OR OF ANOTHER
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
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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