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The visitor should leave his own transport outside the village. The roads reaching the village meet the Ring Road of the castle. If one follows the Ring Road, he will reach the point from which he started. The houses on the outer side of the Ring Road are modern. Across the road, the outer walls of adjacent old houses form the Wall of the castle. The doors and windows of the houses of this side have been opened rather recently. During the Genoan and Turkish occupations the entrances and windows of those houses that formed the Wall used to face only to the inner side of the castle. The loopholes were the only openings on the Wall and it is them that have been turned into windows later on. The surrounding Wall has towers on the corners.
The Tower is one of the four towers the castle used to have on the four corners of its quadrangle shape. It is circular and consists of two floors communicating through a spiral staircase. Only three of the towers are redeemed nowadays (unfortunately, the one located at the corner where the parking area is today has been destroyed). One of the three existing ones is now a residence, a very unique one since it has circular rooms. The towers used to be in direct contact with each other through a tunnel parallel to the outer road. The loopholes of the Tower can be still noticed. From outside they look as narrow openings although from inside they are much wider.
Updated Jul 22, 2004
The square is a refreshing shelter after an exhausting summer day. The houses of the village and especially those forming the Wall do not provide any open space or gardens and there are cases where the boundaries of two neighbouring houses can be hardly distinguished. So the square is the only open area within the castle. It is where friends meet, where news is heard, where the villagers have their morning coffee or their afternoon ouzo. Although it is a calm and quiet place on a daily basis, it turns to a centre of bacchic festivities the days the villagers have a feast. The musicians play island songs and men and women of any age dance all through the night until the morning and drink wine and souma of their own production.
Before the construction of the church of "Big Taxiarchis" the villagers used to have as their main church that of "Old Taxiarchis". The street starting from the square and marked at the side by a shrine with a holy icon and a suspended oil-lamp leads to the old church of Taxiarchis.
This church, built in 1412, was initially small with arches and one aisle. Later, in 1794, a second aisle was added with a united roof. Outside, the older building can be noticed because of the blind apses and the stonework. Internally, the old part of the church was adorned by remarkable frescoes, which went irreparable ravages by the Turks in 1822 during the "Massacre of Chios". Since the entire church had serious damages it was repaired in 1833.
The wooden carved iconostasis of the church is really remarkable. It is made of walnut tree trunk and it is totally handmade. It has depictions from the Old and the New Testament and its date of construction is April 14th, 1833. On the opposite wall the two-headed eagle is painted, that reveals a Patriarchic privilege of the church.
The buildings around the church are connected with it. It seems that this cluster of buildings was a monastery, which used to have its own separate defensive armouring.
Updated Sep 22, 2003
Following the Ring Road one reaches the Gateway of the castle named by the natives as "door of the Captain" (it derives from the Italian word "capitano"). The monoliths of which it consists are remarkable as well as the iron door that remains in an excellent condition. The door during the Genoan occupation was opened in the morning at sunrise and closed in the evening at sunset on a daily basis. It is because the village was the natives' dwelling but at the same time it was a camp for the conquerors. This gate was the only one of the castle, so that the conquerors could easily check the entry of the products, especially of mastic. All that was due to defence and facilitation of the conquerors, since it was according to the products that taxes were imposed. The house over and next to the door gate must have been the governor's-captain's residence. The small window through which the guards used to observe the residents' entry and exit is noticed at the inner part of the gate.
To the Northwest side of the castle, is the so-called "tower of Militas". It derives from the Italian word ?militare? (=military). The tower can be seen more clearly from outside the castle and nowadays it has been turned into a residence. A strong military force guarded it since it is located facing the sea from where all raids were expected. In order to conceive the significance of the tower as well as the effectiveness of the defence system, it is worth to describe its military functioning:
The castle was a quadrilateral with a triangular peak on the Northwest side that ended to the "Tower of Militas". This was the front line of defence. Inside, as it shows in the village plan, two streets starting from the central square and converging just behind the tower of Militas formed a second castle inside the main castle. Here was the second line of defence. The main central tower, where the church of Big Taxiarchis is located at the central square of the village, made the third line of defence.
Updated Sep 22, 2003
The central church of today is also dedicated to "Taxiarches", the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. It is usually called "The Big Taxiarchis" as to be distinguished from the other older church.
It dominates the central square, where the central circular tower of the village used to be. That tower was deserted after the Genoans' withdrawal and during the Turkish Occupation only night birds, ravens and serpents lived inside. The villagers considered this situation as evil, the tower was thought to be a symbol of submission and they decided to demolish it. The demolition began in 1858 and lasted two years, the construction of the church lasted 8 more years and the villagers participated voluntarily in the construction along with the workers.
The entire area of the church is 450 sqm. It is the biggest church in Chios and one of the biggest in Greece. Big Taxiarchis church has a two-way double staircase in front of it, on the top of which the bell-tower rises. The stairs lead to the churchyard, which is composed by remarkable patterns, made of black and white pebbles, typical of the architecture of Chios. In the narthex a remain of the tower can be noticed: it is the cistern for water, the "fontana" as it is called.
Inside, the church is divided into 3 aisles, the central of which is elevated. The pillars that support this aisle are monolithic but have unfortunately been covered by lime mortar and paint due to more recent repairs. The iconostasis of the church was extempore and wooden in the beginning. The present one is made of brick and it has been constructed in 1895. The two icons of Taxiarches adorning it were part of the iconostasis of "Old Taxiarchis". Many votive offerings are remarkable and complement the prompt of the church, offered by faithful villagers coming from all over the world. Sacerdotal vestments, icons and Holly Books of great historical importance have been either brought by the villagers from Russia in the beginning of the century, or sent from Egypt by members of the Mesta community there.
Written Sep 22, 2003
The central tower received all visual messages sent from "Merovigli" (=the watchtower of the daytime), on the peak of the highest mountain of the area, and motivated the whole system of defence. If the enemies took the outer castle, they would have to fight hard again so as to seize a second castle almost identical to the former. If they took that too, they should have much more troops in order to conquer the heart of the castle, the central tower.
Anyway, the tower of Militas played the most significant role in the repulse of the raiders because of its position; it also protected the most important good for the besieged, the water. The well is located under the tower in a shed in the inner part of the castle. The ruts on the mouth of the well are very typical; the ropes going up and down for centuries so as to draw water out have made them. Since the slabs showed signs of wear, some new were placed over the old ones but soon they were also worn. An underground tunnel used to link the well with the central tower of the castle, so if the enemies conquered the village but not the tower, the besieged people would have water supplies, or, possibly, a way of escape.
Two or three more gates to the inner part of the village have been constructed more recently for the residents' facility. So, the gate located today under the tower of Militas is a recent one. Perhaps there was a small emergency gate of the castle at that point. On the way back, the street from the tower of Militas faces the corner formed by the two inner streets of the castle. At the house being on the corner of the two streets, remains of another tower can be seen, confirming the existence of the second line of defence.
Updated Sep 21, 2003