Ekatontapyliani - Paroikia
The sacred jewel of Paros is the Panagia Ekatontapyliani cathedral (dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary / "Panagia"), one of the most important paleochristian monuments on Greek soil ('ekatontapyliani' literally means 'of a hundred gates'). It is situated in the northeastern part of the town, very close to the port. There are many traditions connected with its founding, its name and the architect who designed it. According to the prevailing one, it was erected by decree of Constantine the Great (Saint Constantine / "Agios Constantinos"), the first Emperor of Constantinople, in order to fulfill his mother's, Saint Helen (Agia Eleni), vow. During her voyage in 326 AD towards Jerusalem on a quest of the Holy Cross she was overcome by a terrible storm, found refuge in Paros, where she prayed to the Virgin Mary, and was eventually saved. Originally the church was a cross-shaped basilica with a wooden roof, which was destroyed probably by fire.

Later, when under Emperor Justinian's reign the imposing 6th century church was built, the choice of Ignatius as the architect of Ekatontapyliani proves the imperial interest in this church, since Ignatius is recorded as the master builder of Agia Sophia in Constantinople. During the occupation of Greek territories by the Crusaders and later by the Ottoman Empire the church was destroyed and pillaged repeatedly. The worst destruction, however, came with the earthquake of 1773 and the ensuing restoration, which altered the original grandeur of the building. In 1959 the final restoration commenced and Ekatontapyliani looks today as it did under Justinian, a cross-shaped basilica with dome. Already since the middle of the 16th century AD the church is referred to with two names, Katapoliani and Ekatontapyliani. The first one obviously refers to its location and indicates the proximity of the church to the ancient town (kata = towards, polis = town). The second one relates to ancient codes and documents and is connected to the tradition of a hundred doors. In antiquity the very same location was used as a gymnasium, as suggested by the mosaic found there (it is currently exhibited in the Paroikia Archaeological Museum), as well as by the ancient columns one can see on the floor of the church.

Protochristian remnants include the pulpit and parts of the marble iconostasis (screen), while inside the altar there is the Holy Table (Agia Trapeza) covered with a 'ciborium' supported by four columns and a marble built-in episcopal 'synthronon'. Inside the church and around it there are various chapels, the oldest one dedicated to St. Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), which must have been built sometime after the decree of 313 A.D. proclaiming religious tolerance and before 326 A.D. One rare item in Byzantine church architecture and indeed unique in Greece is the Baptistry, a chapel housing a cross-shaped marble built-in baptismal font. Worth mentioning are the paintings decorating the church and the lateral buildings, and especially the frescoes dating around the 7th – 8th century. The portable icons of Virgin Mary (Panagia), Jesus Christ (Iissous Hristos) and the Assumption of Virgin Mary (Analipsi tis Panagias), on the iconostasis, covered with silver, were donated by Nicholas Mavrogenis, the Parian ruler of Moldavia and Wallachia, in the 18th century. The impressive church is the dominant feature of the island's capital, each year attracting a multitude of visitors/pilgrims, especially on August 15th, when the religious celebration is accompanied by large-scale popular festivities.

Ancient Quarries - Marathi
At the 4th km of the road connecting Paroikia with Lefkes we reach Marathi, a beautiful, verdant, picturesque settlement, with whitewashed houses and three small churches. Close by, towards the east, we come upon the ancient marble quarries. This was the birthplace of the highly prized parian marble, the main source of wealth for the island throughout history, renowned for its contribution to architecture and in particular to sculpture in the classical era. The prevailing characteristic of the parian marble is its clarity and radiance. It is uniquely translucent, as it allows the light to reach as deep as 3.5 cm. (the famed Italian Carrara marble has a 2.5 cm. transparency and the Penteli marble 1.5 cm.).

The parian marble, called 'lychnitis' due to the lamps (lychnoi) used for its extraction from deep tunnels, was transformed by famous sculptors like Phidias, Agoracritus, Praxiteles, Skopas into some of the great masterpieces of antiquity, such as: Venus de Milo (Aphroditi tis Milou), Hermes (Ermis), the Acropolis Korai (Korai tis Acropolis), Niki of Delos (Niki tis Dilou), the temple of Apollo (iero tou Apollona) and the Thesaurus of Sifnians (Thisavros ton Sifnion) in Delphi, the temple of Zeus (iero tou Dios) in Olympia, the temple of Apollo on Delos. There are strong archaeological indications that approximately 70% of sculptures on the coasts of the Aegean were made of parian marble. Extraction of this pure white material had already started in the protocycladic period (3200 BC - 2000 BC), but the quarries terminated their operation towards the end of the 19th century. Today you can still visit them through two entrances and tour their corridors and tunnels, which bear inscriptions by ancient artists.


The Hill of Kastro (Castle) - Paroikia
The hill of the medieval Kastro has always been the core of the community ever since the first settlement (4000 BC) until today. Kastro was built by Markos Sanoudos, the Venetian duke of Naxos, (13th century), who used architectural elements from ancient temples. Archaeological research has located elements from three archaic temples and from some classical era ones incorporated in the Kastro buildings. The only extant parts are from the archaic temple of Athena (iero tis Athinas) (6th century BC) on the top of the hill. Beside the temple's foundations research has revealed part of the protocycladic settlement. Strolling inside Kastro we come across tiny churches, a lot of them incorporated in the fortifications, such as Panagia tou Stavrou (Madonna of the Cross), Agia Anna, Agios Markos, Agios Stylianos, and Agios Konstantinos with its stunning architecture, a covered courtyard and a breathtaking view of the sea, one of the most delightful little churches in the Aegean.


Asklipeio - Paroikia
The seaside road (towards the south) leads to the hill of Agia Anna, where a 4th century BC sanctuary dedicated to Asklipeios, the god of medicine, was revealed. It is open-air, built around a spring. In the same area one can find some remnants of an ancient temple dedicated to Pythios Apollo.

Delion – Paroikia
North of the Paroikia bay, on a high hill facing Delos, a sanctuary dedicated to Delios Apollo was founded in the beginning of the 5th century BC. It consists of a courtyard with an altar, a temple dedicated to his sister Artemis (Diana), and a small space for banquets. The Delion area was also the site of a Cycladic cemetery (3000 BC).


Paleochristian Basilica - Paroikia
About one kilometre away, northeast of Paroikia, by the road Paroikia – Naoussa, we come upon three 17th century churches built on top of the ruins of a large paleochristian three-aisle basilica of 525 – 550 AD. A large number of the marble elements used for this paleochristian church came from ruins of ancient temples and other buildings.


Ancient Cemetery - Paroikia
Recent excavations brought to light a very important cemetery dating between the 8th and the 3rd centuries BC, close to the port and adjacent to the seaside road, with tombs of various types belonging to various historical periods. The most important find is the 'polyandrion' (mass grave) (polloi = many, andres = men), unique in the Aegean, dating to the end of the geometric period (8th century BC), with a huge headstone in front of it. Today the site operates as an archaeological park, and you can admire the interesting findings, as well as photos from older and later excavations in the display room near by.


Venetian Castle - Naoussa
The castle of Naoussa or Kasteli, although small, had great significance as a watchtower monitoring the whole bay of Naoussa. The weather beaten Venetian Castle (half-submerged today), which forms the northern border of the Naoussa harbor, was built by the Sommaripa dynasty (15th century) and is a peculiar fortification. It consists of jetties, still visible under the surface of the sea, which served as breakwater constructions, and of an external wall ending in a circular tower built upon a reef.


The Mycenean Acropolis at Koukounaries - Naoussa
In the last Mycenean period, after 1200 BC, a significant settlement with a palace was founded on the Koukounaries hill in Naoussa, fortified by cyclopean walls.It was destroyed by fire following an attack and siege, and was abandoned. Part of the settlement was briefly inhabited again in 1100 BC. A new town flourished in the Geometric period (10th-8th century BC), when a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena was erected.


Kefalos Hill - Marpissa
East of Marpissa we find the monastery of Agios Antonios (17th century) built on the top of the Kefalos Hill. The uphill walk (about half an hour) is one of the most interesting hikes Paros has to offer. Just before we reach the hilltop we come upon scattered rocks, remnants of the Venetian castle and the devastated Kefalos town. In 1537 this place set the stage for the last act of the Venetian domination over Paros, when the pirate Barbarossa seized and destroyed the castle, which was defended by the Venetians of Sommaripa. Among the ruins of the castle we can find traces of dozens destroyed little churches. Reaching the hilltop we can visit the monastery with its old icons and the gold-plated wood carved iconostassis, and enjoy the stunning view towards the eastern part of Paros.


Butterflies - Paroikia
At the 5th km of the Paroikia – Alyki road a side road on the left leads to Psychopiana, where we find the Christos sto Dasos monastery (Christ in the Woods). A little further to the west we come upon the Valley of the Butterflies, one of the most important biotopes in Greece. The area, with its streams and thick vegetation, is the ideal habitat for hundreds of butterflies in the summer months. The main species here is Panaxia quadripunstaria (Jersey Tiger Moths), commonly called butterfly, but actually belonging to night butterflies or moths.

These butterflies do not fly during the day, limiting their movements to a sort of slow sliding on the trees, while during the night they fly only as far as it is needed to find a mate and reproduce. In this way they save on energy necessary for their survival, as the adult butterfly does not feed on anything all summer long (in fact, it doesn't have a stomach), consuming the fat it has stored in its body in the caterpillar stage. Forcing the butterflies to fly by making noises (shouting, clapping, whistling) leads to the useless consumption of their reserve energy source and to their premature death before they can lay their eggs. At the entrance of the valley there is a refreshment stand and the site is open to visitors between 9 am and 8 pm.


Monasteries - Churches
Whitewashed little churches, chapels and monasteries are the characteristic feature of the landscape all over Paros. They were built mainly in the 16th – 17th centuries, when the Church of Paros was at its peak. Prior to the Fall of Constantinople, Paros was the home of numerous churches besides Ekatontapyliani, but those that were salvaged until today are Agios Georgios Thalassitis (Saint George of the Sea) in Piso Livadi (13th century), Evangelismos tis Theotokou (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) in Marpissa (1410) and Theoskepasti (God Protected) in Protoria of Naoussa. The churches of Paros have superb frescoes, exceptional icons and present great architectural and historical interest.

The monasteries, places of worship but also significant spiritual centers, are intricately linked to the history of the island. Built in divinely beautiful and secluded locations, externally they look like impregnable fortresses. During the Ottoman occupation, approximately 35 monasteries were in full operation in Paros as against only five today. The monastery of Logovardas, on the Paroikia-Naoussa road, is a male 'cenobium' (koinos = common, bios = life), famous for its spiritual contribution and for its substantial support of the islanders during the German occupation. Other active monasteries today are that of Thapsana, south of Elitas, of Saint Arsenios (Christos sto Dasos), south of Paroikia, where there is also the grave of Agios Arsenios, patron saint of the island, of the Taxiarches (Archangels), north of Paroikia, and that of Agioi Theodoroi, east of Agkeria.


Municipal Library of Paros - Paroikia
The General Collection consists of approximately 11,000 titles on all sectors of knowledge, which are continuously enriched and updated. It has a rich section of archival material on the history and culture of Paros and a special section dedicated to the ancient Parian poet Archilochus. It is a lending library, which also has a study space, 4 PCs, and it is housed in a beautiful renovated building inside the traditional settlement of Paroikia.

Telephone: (+30) 22840 23373




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