Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Theme / Vernacular Architecture


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About the site

Corridor: Western Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Greece, Cyclades
Type: Christian religious centre, Vernacular Architecture
Epoch: Modern Times, Middle Ages
Theme: Christian Monasteries, Vernacular Architecture
World Heritage:
Modern TimesMiddle AgesChristian MonasteriesVernacular ArchitectureChristian religious centreVernacular Architecture

Sifnos is the fourth island in the Western Cyclades. It is located between Milos and Serifos. Sifnos is an island with countless churches, stone-paved alleys and white houses. The architecture is a mixture of medival and cycladic elements.
Kastro is one of the best sights of Sifnos. Kastro (derivation from the Latin castrum, meaning citadel) is, architecturally, a typical example of Venetian castle. It is a "live" museum built on an ancient acropolis the “asti” (polis). According to Herodotus it has been continuously inhabited since ancient times.
Visitors see the first row of two- and three-storey houses as they approach the village from the outside wall of this medieval town. It is the place where the low class inhabitants resided, whereas the upper classes had their residences on a higher elevation and inside the wall of the castle to afford themselves better protection from pirate's attack, a common occurrence in that period.
Visitors enter Kastro through the medieval gates, today archways that used to be attached to defense towers. Because the space within the Kastro is small and narrow, ownerships of houses follows a horizontal plan; some street and squares are on the roofs on what used to be one-level houses, today storage areas, while the old chimneys of ground-level residences were on the outside walls of houses, literally the boundary that marked the street.
During the ancient and medieval periods, and until 1836, Kastro used to be the capital of Sifnos, as well as the Seat of the Archdiocese of Sifnos (1646-1797), and that of the Bishopric of Sifnomilos (1797-1852). The Bishop's residence was on the acropolis, an area known today as The Bishop's District, the same district where the Catholic Cathedral used to be, known today as Frangantonis(1460). Before anyone anters the village, where you see Kastro's cemetery and the churches of Saint Stefanos and Saint John (1629), was the famous school of the Holy Sepulcher (1687-1835), also known as the institute of Archipelago.
In the area known as Selathi, there used to be about ten windmills (1617-1950). On the south, at the foot of the hill where Kastro is built, is Yialos or Seralia (from Turkish word saray meaning palace), what must have been one of the most imposing buildings during the Ottoman's period; this is the same harbor that used to be Sifnos' port in ancient times. Seralia has fish taverns and rooms for rent.
Many of Sifnos' churches and monasteries have been characterised as historical monuments and present a huge historical and architectural interest. There are 365 churches on the island of Sifnos. Many of them celebrate the name day of their particular saint with a Panagiri, a service and feast with music, dancing and the singing of songs that one might not associate with a religious festival. In essence, they are get-togethers that can last until dawn, particularly those on the highest mountains where the length of the journey up makes one want to stay there as long as possible.
Particularly interesting are all the churches of Kastro, as well as Panaghia Aggeloktisti in Katavati, the Monastery of Prophet Elijah the Tall, Monastery of Chrisostomos in Kato Petali, Panaghia ta Gournia in Pano Petali, Aghios Antipas in Pano Petali, Aghios Konstantionos in Artemonas, Panaghia tis Ammou and Panaghia Koghi in Artemonas, Panaghia Eleousa in Castro, the Monastery of Panaghia Poulati, Panaghia tou Vounou, the Monastery of Panaghia of Chrisopigi.

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