Find Santorinitours.org at Emporio 847 03, call us on 694 457 7918 and book Santorini tours. Santorini during the Middle Ages was an important island for the Venetians, who conquered it and tried to turn it into an impregnable fortress. All medieval settlements were fortified, proper castles, the castles, with a very special architecture for this type: The perimeter of the fortress, the outer wall, that is, were made up of the houses themselves, which had doors and windows that only “saw” inside it.
The castles of Santorini were five in number and stretched across the length and breadth of the island. The capital was Skaros, built on the rock in front of Imerovigli and of which almost nothing remains today. The best preserved is the Castle of Emporios, while the newest chronologically is the Castle of Pyrgos.
Oia had a castle, the Castle of Agios Nikolaos, from where today its visitors face the sunset, and Akrotiri, whose Goulas, that is, the central tower, has been turned into an art center.
Castle of Pyrgos
The Kastelli of the Tower of Santorini was later than the rest, it is found as New Tower or New Town, while some scholars believe that although it is of Venetian style, it was built during Turkish rule in Santorini, around 1580 that is. Today, several of its buildings are preserved and give a very good picture of the settlement during its heyday.
Also preserved is the castle gate, the only entrance to the castle, that is, above which there was once the polemistra or fonissa, a square structure from which the inhabitants could pour hot oil over would-be invaders. Inside the Castle of Pyrgos, the old churches, Theotokaki, and also the Panagia of the Entrances of 1660, are preserved to this day, at the top where the impressive epitaph is made on Great Friday. Just outside Kasteloporta is Ypsilos Kafenes, the square where the nobles, the aristocrats of the village, used to gather to discuss.
The Castle of Emporio of Santorini is the most well preserved of all and is located in the center of the modern settlement. Many of its buildings have been restored by its owners and inhabited, while many of its churches are still preserved. The feature that differentiates this castle from the others in Santorini is that the goulas, a fortified tower that is usually located at the highest point of the castle, was – and is preserved to this day – outside the settlement.
Even its only entrance, the Porta, is preserved, which leads to an endless labyrinth, with very narrow streets, stairs that rise almost vertically, small bridges that connect the upper floors, arches, old churches. The oldest of them is the impressive Virgin Mary Messiani, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin, was probably built in the 16th century and has an impressive bell tower.
Castle of Agios Nikolaos
The Castle of Agios Nikolaos is the old castle of Oia and was built on the edge of the caldera. It took its name from the church of Agios Nikolaos which was underground and is estimated to have been built around 1450, but today it is not preserved. The most impressive residence in the heyday belonged to Castellanos, who came from the Darzenda family.
All the houses were built on the rock, one next to the other, so that their outer walls were essentially a single and impenetrable wall. They were two- and three-story, sometimes one on top of the other, while between them there were very narrow alleys, the rimids, which essentially formed a complicated labyrinth.
The earthquake that hit Santorini in 1956 also proved disastrous for the castle of Agios Nikolaos. A large part of it retreated to the cliff of the caldera and was lost forever, while the famous churches of Agios Georgios and Panagia tis Platsani, buildings with great architectural details, had the same fate.
However, what remains of the castle is one of the most popular spots in Oia, as crowds gather there to admire the sunset. It is the point with the best view to the west, towards the volcano with Palia and Nea Kameni, but also Thirasia.
Part of the old Kasteli of Akrotiri is still preserved today, integrated into the modern settlement in the island. In its center was the goulah, the central tower that also functioned as an observatory and was called La Ponta. The earthquake of 1956 destroyed a large part of Akrotiri Castle, which until then was kept in good condition.
Now the goulah stands out on the highest point of the hill, while around you can still see some of the medieval buildings, built with the characteristic type: the doors and windows all “looked” towards the inner side, so that their outer walls, as the one was built next to the other, forming the wall of the castle.
The owner of the goula has turned the building into an art space, where various cultural events are organized, while a permanent exhibition of the tsabouna, a traditional musical instrument of the Cyclades, is also hosted.