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Fortresses Skaros Rock

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5 Fortified Settlements : the Castles & 'Goulades'of Santorini

Skaros Rock : The Fortress
Skaros was one of the five fortified settlements and the most important one. The rock was inhabited in medieval times, because the fortress constructed there offered protection from pirates.

The original castle, known as ‘Epano Kastro’ (Upper castle in Greek) or 'La Roka' was built in the later Byzantine years by the Venetian Giacomo Barozzi. The first Duke of Naxos Marco Sanudo gave Santorini to Giacomo Barozzi in the year of 1207.

A whole settlement was built around and below Epano Kastro, the 'Kasteli' of Skaros. The densely populated Catholic settlement had 200 houses, and to reach its walls required at least half an hour’s walk. At the top of the rock hung a large bell, to warn inhabitants of imminent pirate raids.

The promontory at Skaros has been shaken repeatedly by strong earthquakes. Historical sources say that earthquakes during the eruptions of 1650, 1701 to 1711, and 1866 to 1870 caused considerable damage. The Venetian noble families that lived there decided to leave after the eruptions of 1707 to 1711.

Skaros was the capital of Santorini until the 18th century, although evacuation of Skaros started at the beginning of the 17th century. The rich Roman Catholics who had once lived there had moved to the town of Fira, abandoning the castle for a lower flatter level with access to the sea.

According to sketches and accounts of Count Choiseul-Gouffier, who visited Santorini in 1770, there were still houses on Skaros at that time. However when archaeologist Ludwig Ross visited Santorini in 1836, Skaros had been empty for years.

Skaros rock of today is totally uninhabited with the exception of a small church, the Chapel of Agios Ioannis Apokefalistheis, on its north side. Only a few ruins are left from the formerly numerous dwellings.

A Note by E.M. Leycester (1850)

Drawing by Fauvel from the work of Thomas Hope : 1769 - 1831 (Benaki Museum Athens)
Skaros Rock as it is today

Part of a Drawing by Choiseul-Gouffier : 1782


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