(1900 Times Atlas of the World)
1207 Marco Sanudo, a Venetian adventurer, conquered Nasso and the nearby islands including Paris
1566 The last Duke of Nasso, Jacopo IV Crispo was cashiered by the Sultan
1645-1669 During the War of Candia the Venetians often controlled the Cycladic islands including Paris
Paris, as the Venetians called Paros, is the second largest island of the Cyclades. In ancient times it was famous for its white marble which was used for many important statues and also for temples (e.g. Tempio di Castore e Polluce in Rome). Two large bays on the western (Paroikia) and northern (Naoussa) coasts were important natural harbours.
The southern side of Paroikia from the windmill which is shown in the image used as background for this page
Parechia is a wretched relic of the antient and famous Paros.
Edward Daniel Clarke - Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa in 1799-1804
In an hour we reached Paroekia, the capital of Paros. From the size and fertility of the island we expected to find it a prosperous town, but, on the contrary, it proved the dirtiest place we had visited on our journey.
Henry Fanshawe Tozer - The islands of the Aegean Sea. Publ. 1890, but Tozer began his travels in 1874
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Paroikia is built on the ruins of the ancient Pariote capital; (..) but as it is at present Paroikia is a horrid place, for it lies so low. An acre or more close to the landing-place is a salt marsh, called Plaka, productive of malarious fevers in the summer heats. (..) The valleys and hills around the town are dotted with tiny white churches, as is so often the case in unhealthy fever-stricken spots.
James Theodore Bent - The Cyclades - 1885
The Venetian town was built on the acropolis of the ancient town; the modern sea promenade makes it difficult to realize the fortified appearance it had in the past.
amount of these relics of antiquity is on a knoll on
the north side of the town, on which stood the
ancient acropolis; (..) a portion of the wall
of the Venetian fortress which occupied one side of
this height is curiously composed of drums laid
on their sides and slabs unequally fitted together. Tozer
The old acropolis, on a gentle eminence, is still a prominent object; and the mediaeval castle which crowns it is an everlasting monument of the Vandalism of the Frankish lords of Paros (i.e. the Dukes of Nasso). Bent
The main feature of the castle was a huge tower built with stones of the ancient buildings.
Every building in the place, but particularly the Castle, bears some evidence of its pristine splendour, and of the havoc that has ensued. (..) Castle. In the walls of this building we saw some columns which had been placed horizontally among the materials used in building it; with their butt-ends, sticking out. Clarke
Its walls have been built out of the drums of many pillars, placed with their circles outwards, in rows, alternately with flat black stones and the seats of the old theatre. The effect is curious, and certainly has the merit of originality. Bent
(above) Fragments of funerary monuments in the houses of the town; (below) columns and other ancient stones in the side porch of Agios Konstantinos
It is truly lamentable to view the wreck of beautiful sculpture, visible not only in the construction of this fortress, but all over the town of Parechia, the wretched remnant of a city famous for the birth of Phidias and of Praxiteles. (..) Similar imperfect remains may be observed in all parts of the town, which have been used for building materials, and generally white-washed. Clarke
As might be expected in the neighbourhood of the famous Parian quarries, fragments of marble were to be seen in all directions; pieces of cornices served for doorsteps, and triglyphs and other ornaments were built into the walls of the houses. Tozer
The place is teeming with remains - inscriptions, scraps of sculpture, and decorations are let into almost every house. Bent
A walk through Paroikia as it is to-day gives ample
proof of what the town once was. Part of the old city
wall is now in the sea, for during the lapse of centuries
sad havoc has been made by the encroachments of the
The houses at the foot of the acropolis were designed in order to form a barrier with only a few openings giving access to the town.
We were lodged comfortably enough at Paroikia in
a good house, with a balcony facing the sea, belonging
to an old widow lady, whose husband had been a sea
captain. (..) We passed two good houses
by the roadside with shady gardens - quite little oases in
the surrounding barrenness - where live the descendants
of two families once well known in these parts - the
Crispis and the Veniers, both of Venetian origin, and both
of which held princely sway at one time in these islands.
(..) They say these Italians transplanted on to Greek soil
are very haughty and proud still. Bent
Paroikia and the other villages of the island have perhaps the finest buildings of the modern Cycladic architecture which in recent times spread to almost all Greek islands, even where there was a different kind of traditional architecture.
(left) Agios Konstantinos, the main church of the fortified town; (right) a nearby fountain
There are some half-dozen of the steps still
left which formerly went down from the acropolis to
the sea; and the schoolmaster of Paroikia, who was our
guide, told me that thirty-five years ago he remembered
that this flight of steps was intact. At the top of the
steps now stands a little church, dedicated to St. Constantine, with a cross of brilliant yellow tiles over the
door facing the sea, inside of which are several remnants
of the past. Bent
The Ottoman rule on many Cycladic islands did not actually impact on the everyday life of the inhabitants who were allowed to maintain their religious beliefs; the only remaining evidence of that period can be noticed in the adoption of an Ottoman pattern in the decoration of a fountain and in the presence of a cross made up of typical Ottoman tiles (see those at Istanbul and Kutahya).
The great sight in Paros is the Church of Our Lady of the Hundred Gates about five minutes' walk from Paroikia. It is by far the finest church in the Aegean Sea - in all Greece, I believe - for everyone asked us if we had seen it, as if it was St Peter's at Rome. Externally it does not present a very attractive appearance, being surrounded by a white-washed wall. (..) Inside this wall is a garden; (..) the celebrated church is opposite to you as you enter. You enter a narthex with tombs of mediaeval worthies of Paros around it. (..) The Church of the Hundred Gates is noted for its great number of adjoining chapels, unusual in Greek churches. One of these is constructed out of an old temple, the pillars from which are considerably older than the date assigned to the church, which, tradition says, the Empress St Helena founded by roofing over these ruined pillars of the aforesaid temple. Bent
Panagia Ekatondapiliani: (left) Baptistery; (right) Byzantine capital
Since then numerous additions
have been made, and tradition further tells us that the
big church, nave, choir, and sanctuary were designed by
a pupil of the architect who built St. Sophia at Constantinople; and later additions still, during the Frankish
occupation, have made of this church a perfect Babel of
architecture. The iconostasis that is to
say, the screen which in all Greek churches divides the
choir from the sanctuary (..) is
excessively elaborate. (..) Under the altar is the sacred
spring which cures, they say, many invalid
pilgrims on the annual festival day (August 15).
The choir and nave are fine, and are supported by
some good specimens of Byzantine pillars. Bent
The church was built on the site of ancient buildings (temples, but also a gymnasium).
(left) Baptismal font; (right) detail of the matroneum
In the dark baptistry there is a splendid cross-formed font
for immersion, in the centre of which stands a pillar for the light, and
there are three Greek crosses at the side; this font is now
only used for adult baptisms. (..) Close to this spot is a chapel which
was once set aside for Roman Catholic worship during
the Latin occupation; but this ceased to be the case
with the extinction of the Latin element. (..) There are chapels dedicated to the worship of St. Anargyris, St. Philip, the
Holy Ghost - all covered with weird frescoes. (..) Such is the
great Church of the Hundred Gates of Paros, an interesting
though conglomerated relic of past ages, and still amongst
the inhabitants of these islands it is an object of the
greatest veneration, second only to the altar of the great
miracle-working Madonna of Tenos. Bent
Panagia Ekatondapiliani retains some very interesting features of the early Christian buildings including a matroneum (women's gallery - see that at Hagia Sophia) and a font for full immersion baptism. Baptism had an enormous importance for the early Christians. It was administered in a separate building or in a section of the church at its entrance. Tunisia retains some highly decorated baptismal fonts, e.g. from Thapsus.
Archaeological Museum of Paros: floor mosaic from Panagia Ekatondapiliani
A floor mosaic was found beneath the church; it depicts the Labours of Hercules, a very popular subject. It is colourful and clear in design: the head of the lion and the decorative frame are particularly well executed. The labour which is more easily identifiable depicts the fight with the Ceryneian hind.
This is one of a group of late Hellenistic and Roman sarcophagi with successive funerary panels of different dimensions carved into their front and sides, an almost unique feature. They were receptacles of composite family burials, which were carved with new, individual panels honouring the dead, as successive burials were added.
Castle of Naoussa
At eight o'clock a. m. we found our vessel entering the harbour of Naussa, at the northern extremity of the Isle of Paros; having availed ourselves of the land breeze, in the night, to leave Naxos. This is the principal port for large vessels; but as our object was to get to Parechia, the chief town, we ordered our men to bear down the western side of the island. This island is surrounded by harbours; and that of Naussa alone is said to be capable of containing a hundred vessels. (..) Fleets may lie there in perfect safety, and in the very centre of the Archipelago. Clarke
The Dukes of Nasso built a tower to protect the harbour; this fortification was enlarged by the Ottomans who added an artillery battery after the end of the War of Candia during which the Venetians often used this harbour as a base for their fleet.
(left) Detail of the Ottoman battery; (right) 1662 coat of arms of a Venetian commander on a modern bridge near the harbour
The monastery of Agios Antonios on the site of a former Venetian castle
The mediaeval fortress built on the summit of an
isolated conical hill, close to the sea, and commanding the
strait between Naxos and Paros, repays a visit: it must
one day have been a large and commanding spot, and is
covered with houses and churches of the Venetian epoch.
At the top is a disused monastery and a lovely church,
dedicated to St. Anthony, whither the people of Paros
repair once a year on the saint's feast-day. (..) In its wealthy days this castle church must
have been rich in decoration. Bent
A third fortified site was located on a hill on the eastern coast of the island: its remaining few walls were included in a monastery built at a later time.
(left) A modern mural painting; (right) windmills near Paroikia
The island produces excellent oil, and abundance of wine. Its ripe olives are highly esteemed by the natives as an article of food, after being salted for one day: this sort of diet has been often deemed, by inconsiderate English travellers in Italy and Greece, very hard fare for the poor inhabitants; but it is one of their greatest luxuries; and we became as fond of it as the people everywhere seem to be from one extremity of the Mediterranean to the other. Clarke
Paros was important not only for its central location and its natural harbours, but also because its fertile soil allowed the farming of a wide variety of crops.
Introductory page on the Venetian Fortresses in Greece
List of the fortresses
|Geographic area||Location||Ionian Islands||Corfų (Kerkyra) Paxo (Paxi) Santa Maura (Lefkadas) Cefalonia (Kephallonia) Asso (Assos) Itaca (Ithaki) Zante (Zachintos) Cerigo (Kythera)||Greek Mainland||Butrinto (Butrint) Parga Preveza and Azio (Aktion) Vonizza (Vonitsa) Lepanto (Nafpaktos) Atene (Athens)||Peloponnese (Morea)||Castel di Morea (Rio), Castel di Rumelia (Antirio) and Patrasso (Patra) Castel Tornese (Hlemoutsi) and Glarenza Navarino (Pilo) and Calamata Modon (Methoni) Corone (Koroni) Braccio di Maina, Zarnata, Passavā and Chielefā Mistrā Corinto (Korinthos) Argo (Argos) Napoli di Romania (Nafplio) Malvasia (Monemvassia)||Aegean Islands||Negroponte (Chalki) Castelrosso (Karistos) Oreo Lemno (Limnos) Schiatto (Skiathos) Scopello (Skopelos) Alonisso Schiro (Skyros) Andro (Andros) Tino (Tinos) Micono (Mykonos) Siro (Syros) Egina (Aegina) Spezzia (Spetse) Paris (Paros) Antiparis (Andiparos) Nasso (Naxos) Serifo (Serifos) Sifno (Syphnos) Milo (Milos) Argentiera (Kimolos) Santorino (Thira) Folegandro (Folegandros) Stampalia (Astipalea)||Crete||Grambusa (Granvousa) Castello (Kasteli/Kissamos) La Canea (Xania) Souda Candia (Iraklion) Rettimo (Rethymno) Spinalonga and Castel Mirabello Castles on the southern coast Sittia and Paleocastro|
You may refresh your knowledge of the history of Venice in the Levant by reading an abstract from
the History of Venice by Thomas Salmon, published in 1754. The Italian text is accompanied by an English summary.