The archeological “heart” of the archaeological treasures of Santorini beats in Akrotiri, the ancient settlement from which frescoes, works of art, and the ruins of a well-designed city with multi-level buildings, water supply system, furniture, and all that are well preserved after the Minoan earthquake that “buried” ». No human skeletons were found in Akrotiri, which supports the theory that there were warning earthquakes that pushed the residents to a mass evacuation. At an altitude of 396 meters stand the findings of ancient Thira in Mesa Vouno, with ruins from the Hellenistic period. Finally, in Fira, you will find the Museum of Prehistoric Thira and the Archaeological Museum, with sculptures, inscriptions, ceramics, kouros and finds from Akrotiri, Potamos, and other parts of the island.
Archaeological Site of Akrotiri
One of Greece’s most important archeological sites, the prehistoric settlement with the two-story and three-story houses and the xestas (mainly public buildings made of hewn stones), is impressive. The sewerage system was particularly advanced, while, unlike the Minoan palaces, the findings here show culture with a more human face and a better distribution of wealth.
From the findings of the excavations, it is now known that the area of Akrotiri was inhabited for the first time during the Late Neolithic period (around 4500 BC), and during the 18th century, BC. had developed into a city. At the beginning of the 17th century, BC. suffered major damage from a series of earthquakes, but then many of the buildings were repaired, and others remained as they were, while new buildings were built near the older ones and the city expanded to the north. During the Late Cycladic I period, the city flourished until its burial by the so-called “Minoan eruption.” The Late Cycladic I Period is contemporary with the Late Minoan IA Period in Crete, a period during which the new palaces (Neo-Palace Period) flourished there.
The location was ideal for a safe anchorage, as it was protected from the north winds, while at the same time, the morphology of the soil favored the development of agricultural activities. It was probably the capital of the island, but this has not yet been confirmed. The area of the excavations is close to 14 acres, and a small percentage of the prehistoric city has been discovered.
The construction was dense and had high-rise buildings with rich murals, organized warehouses, craft spaces, excellent urban planning with streets, squares, and a sewer system, which passed under the cobblestones and was directly connected to the houses.
The building materials were stones of various sizes and shapes, mainly volcanic, clay for bonding mortar, unbaked bricks (bricks) reinforced with straw, wood, and plaster. Many of the spaces of the buildings were decorated, as a rule of the upper floors, a large number of murals, indicating a sophisticated and refined urban society, which was dressed with luxury, elegance, and impressive multicolor.
Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Impressive museum in the center of Fira will introduce you in the best way to the history of the island, which was one of the most important centers in the Aegean during the 18th and 17th century BC, presenting murals and finds from Akrotiri and beyond.
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Santorini contains findings that have been discovered by excavations in the area of Akrotiri during the period of great prosperity in the 17th century BC. It also hosts finds from other areas of Santorini dating from the Late Neolithic period to the 17th century BC.
The exhibition includes four sections:
• The history of the research of Prehistoric Thira
• The geological history of Thera
• The island’s history from the Late Neolithic period to the beginning of the Late Cycladic I period (early 17th century BC)
• The settlement of Akrotiri (Late Cycladic I period, 17th century BC).
The exhibition is an attempt to outline the course of Thera in prehistoric times through selected findings from the thousands in the warehouses, a course that made the southernmost island of the Cyclades one of the most important Aegean centers in the 18th and 17th centuries BC.
Archaeological Museum of FIRA
The archaeological treasures of Santorini continue next to the cable car of Fira, it houses collections of sculptures and inscriptions from the Archaic to the Roman period and ceramic vases and clay figurines from the Geometric to the Hellenistic period.
The Archaeological Museum of Thira island in the village of Fira, Santorini, Greece. It was built in 1960 to replace an older one that had collapsed from the Amorgos earthquake in 1956.
The Museum is located near the Frankish district of Fira. Its exhibitions include findings from the city and cemeteries of ancient Thera and which cover the entire range of antiquity from early history to late Roman times.
The Museum’s collection houses objects that start from Early Cycladic marble figurines of the 3rd millennium BC. and continue in the classical period. They include prehistoric vessels from Akrotiri dating from the 20th to the 17th century BC. Subsequent objects include vases and amphorae of geometric and archaic periods. Many of these objects come from the ancient cemetery of Thera. One of them is a crater with Attic black figures from the tomb, with four ships on the inner surface, around the rim.
The Museum’s Collection includes:
- Inscriptions from the Archaic to the Roman era.
- Ceramic and clay figurines from the Geometric to the Hellenistic era (900 BC – 30 BC)
- Sculpture and inscriptions from the Archaic to the Roman era (700 BC – 324 AD)
The archaeological treasures of Santorini continue in the city of Ancient Thira. It is built on the hill Mesa Vouno and dominates the southeast coast of the island of Thira. Ruins of the ancient settlement lie at the top of the rock that dominates over Kamari.
The city was founded in the 8th century BC. by the Lacedaemonians (Dorians) and was inhabited until the early Byzantine times. It has always been the urban, administrative, and religious center of the city-state of Thera.
Access to the city is on foot, with stairs to the mountain slope. The city in its current form has strong elements of the Hellenistic and Roman eras as due to the continuous habitation there are not many traces left from the first centuries of existence of the city.
Important points of Ancient Thira are the Agora, the sanctuary of Artemis, the temple of Dionysus, the sanctuary of Carnegie Apollo, the theater, and the cemetery.
The first excavations of Ancient Thera were made by the German philologist-epigraphist Hiller von Gaertringen in the period 1896-1902 at his own expense.
Evidence for the habitation of Thera in prehistoric times began to come to light in the second half of the 19th century when due to the use of Thera land to insulate the walls of the Suez Canal by the French engineer Ferdinard de Lesseps in 1866, prehistoric antiquities were discovered.
Panagia Episkopi Gonias
The Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos founded the most important monument of Byzantine times at the end of the 11th century. Watch out for the rare marble iconostasis.
The Church of the Diocese of Thera is a mid-Byzantine church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is located south of the village of Mesa Gonia in Santorini. It is also known by the names: Episkopi Gonia and Panagia i Episkopi.
In the old days, it was the seat first of the Orthodox and later of the Latin diocese.
Skaros Rock & Castle
At the edge of the settlement in Imerovigli, the old Venetian castle ruins (Kastelli) create an ideal setting for an afternoon stroll on the Caldera.
Skaros was the oldest and perhaps the most important of the five fortified settlements of Santorini. He is also the only one from whom almost nothing is saved. Today, it is hard to imagine that on this steep cliff was once the center of the island, an entire castle with 200 houses, cobbled streets, and churches.
The Castle’s History
The castle of Skaros was built between 1205 and 1230 when the Venetians were already the rulers of the island. It developed rapidly as its fortifications offered adequate protection from pirates. After all, it was never conquered during the entire Venetian period.
The original castle was also known as “Upper Castle” or “La Roka” and was built by the Venetian Giacomo Barozzi. Its inhabitants were known as Kastrinos.
Skaros was the capital of Santorini until the 18th century, although the evacuation of the settlement had begun in the early 17th century. Strong earthquakes had repeatedly shaken the rock. Earthquakes during the eruptions of 1650, 1701-1711, and 1866-1870 caused significant damage. It seems that the earthquakes in the period 1701-1711 pushed the inhabitants to abandon it permanently, in combination with the fact that the era of piracy was over, and there was no reason for the islanders to be pushed into steep and inaccessible places.
According to sketches and reports by Count Choiseul-Gouffier, who visited Santorini in 1770, the houses of Skaros still existed at that time. But when archaeologist Ludwig Ross visited Santorini in 1836, Skaros was completely empty.
The rock of Skaros today is completely uninhabited. There is a small church dedicated to Panagia Theoskepasti and a few ruins of old houses of the settlement.
Regardless of the castle, it is said that the rock offers the most beautiful view of the Caldera of Santorini.
The Castle in Art and Speech
The only evidence for the image of the castle of Skaros is the pencil drawing from the collection of Thomas Hope located in the Benaki Museum, and its design is attributed to L.S. Fauvel, French Consul in Athens at the end of the 18th century.
Folklore Museum of Emmanuel Lignos
In Kontochori, just outside Fira, it has a traditional Santorini canvas and a rich folklore collection.
In Kontochori, Santorini, next to Fira, is the Folklore Museum of Santorini. A museum that takes you to other times. The Folklore Museum is a private initiative and exists thanks to the efforts of Emmanuel Lignos, lawyer, journalist, and for many years director of the newspaper Theraika Nea.
Church Museum of Pyrgos
Objects that revive the Santorini of the past in a traditional complex of old canvas in the village of Pyrgos.
THE CHURCH MUSEUM
The collection of ecclesiastical icons and relics of the Tower
The ecclesiastical museum that houses the Collection of ecclesiastical icons and relics of Pyrgos is located in the church of Agia Triada, in the center of the castle, which was the building of a monastery and was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1956. Then and with On the initiative of Lisa Marinos, president of the Estia Association of Pyrgos, but also with the help of believers and residents of the village, the church was rebuilt on the site of the old one.
The church remained closed until 1997, when, on the initiative of the then president of the community, the community council, and the Diocese of Thira, the church operated and continues to function as an ecclesiastical museum.
The decision for the operation of the site was taken after the many years of previous efforts by the community of Pyrgos for the collection, maintenance, recording, and organization of the church relics of the settlement and the relics of the church itself in order to highlight them.
During three years, from 1995 to 1998, the community of Pyrgos Kallistis collected and preserved the ecclesiastical relics of Pyrgos while with the help of the 2nd tax office of Byzantine antiquities and the Diocese of Thira, they managed to operate from August 1997 on Church of the Holy Trinity as a Museum, promoting this remarkable and valuable ecclesiastical collection.
Since then, the site remains open to the public, hosting the permanent collection of ecclesiastical icons and relics of the Tower.
The Collection of ecclesiastical icons and relics of Pyrgos hosts icons of Thera and Cretan hagiographers of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, wood carvings, metal and ceramic worship objects, hierarchical vestments of great historical and ecclesiastical value, rare and unique ecclesiastical books as well as a number of other objects of the 17th and 18th centuries, related to the worship religious traditions of Orthodoxy.
Among the objects on display, there are tunics (parts of church costumes) with embroidered representations on them from images of important events of our Orthodox historical heritage, such as the Entrances of the Virgin, the Epiphany, and the “apron” an ecclesiastical garment located next to the image of the Virgin.
The collection of images
Among the icons hosted by the Collection is the icon of the “Virgin of the Infant,” the icon of the “Divine Liturgy,” the “St. John,” the “St. George,” the “Assumption of the Virgin,” dating to the 17th century, of the “High Priest Christ” which comes from the (neighboring) church of Panagia and of “Agios Iakovos” a Byzantine style icon that comes from the homonymous church of Pyrgos.
The Collection also includes the icons of the throne “Virgin of the Infant” and “Christ” that come from the church of Faneromeni in the Tower. The icon of “Saint Catherine” also comes from the same church.
All the icons included in the Collection have been preserved while they are ecclesiastical monuments of great value.
Among the exhibits of the Collection is the Cross with the trilobite edges as well as a wood carving with the parents of Christ (??…)
The collection is completed by three unique techniques of handmade epitaph canopies dating to the 18th and 19th centuries.
Catholic Cathedral of Fira
One of the most beautiful districts of Fira, with well-preserved mansions, catholic churches (visit the metropolis or Domo as they call it), the monasteries of Dominicans and Lazarists, and the Gyzi Palace.
The catholic cathedral of Thera is located in the catholic district of Fira and is dedicated to the memory of St. John the Baptist. The church was badly damaged by the 1956 earthquake, but was restored. A trademark of the temple, which is built in Baroque style, is the clock tower.
History of Catholisism in Santorini
In 1642, the Jesuit monks settled on the island as apostolic missionaries in order to convert the locals to the Catholic doctrine. Although this installation provoked strong protests from the Orthodox, the arrival of the Lazarist monks soon followed.
In 1650 the traveler F. Richard roughly mentions that in a total of 7000 inhabitants the Catholics were about 700 while in 1790 Choiseul-Gouffin finds, according to him, 800 Catholics. He also notes that at that time a deep rift had been created in the relations of the Catholics with the Orthodox as the former claimed various chapels. Later a significant number of prominent Catholics left the island mainly due to pressure from the Turks.
A few years after the liberation and the creation of the Greek state and specifically in 1850 the Catholic clergyman Ioannis Dekigalas counted 16 catholic churches in a total of 290 and in 1927 the Orthodox archimandrite Daniel Denaxas found 9 in a total of 360. At the same time in 1928 according to the official census Greek state in Santorini there were only 250 Catholics and today are estimated at about 150 people while the diocese is officially recognized by the state and is under the tutelage of the Bishop of Syros, including the islands Thirasia, Ios, Anafi, Folegandros and Sikinos.
Gyzi Palace (exhibitions mansion)
The mansion of 1700, maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Thera, hosts an exhibition of engravings and a folklore collection about the Cyclades and organizes interesting cultural events.
In Oia, with objects and photographic material that testify to the rich naval history of the island. The Maritime Museum of Oia captures the history of Santorini Shipping and caused the extroverted character of the island.
In the beautiful Oia, on the outskirts of Santorini, in an old mansion restored to its original form, the Nautical History of Thera unfolds. The treasures of the Nautical Museum of Thera are rare typical samples of the naval tradition of Santorini since they have been found in old captain houses of the island.
The Museum exhibits rare rafters, anchors, old cannons, nautical chests, axons, marine equipment accessories, craft tools, boat forms and molds, models of old and newer ships (newer ones show the distinctive A belonged to Santorini shipowners, watercolors of beautiful sailboats, rare documents and books, charter and dowry agreements, wills, and rich photographic material.
The sailboats, captains, and crews of Santorini, delivered their cargo like Theraic Earth, and returned bringing all kinds of valuable goods, but also knowledge, experience, and wealth to the island. At one point they brought from Egypt the anhydrous tomato that found in the microclimate of Santorini the ideal conditions to grow, creating for many decades a new cycle of growth and prosperity, with the dozens of factories that prepared the Santorini tomato paste, which in turn inhabitants of the island and all of Greece.
Mansion in the center of Messaria that functions as a museum. Its furniture and ceiling paintings are preserved.
In the atmospheric space of the old Argyrou canvas, in Exo Gonia, in addition to the permanent exhibition on the history of wine, there is a cultural center with periodic exhibitions of well-known artists.
The Volcano of Santorini
The walk to the island of Nea Kameni, where you will go organized by small boats, combining the excursion with a swim in the warm waters, is a must. There you will see the craters, the “fireballs” (magma that froze while in the air), and impressive crystalline rocks.
Santorini volcano is one of the largest underwater active volcanoes in the world. Probably the only volcano whose caldera reaches the sea. Its largest eruption occurred during the Minoan Bronze Age 3,600 years ago (The Explosion: Bronze Age 1600 BC). The entire center of the former circular island sank in the sea during the terrible volcanic eruption. The eruption caused a tidal wave that literally wiped out the advanced civilization of Minoan Crete, 70 miles south of Santorini.
The huge mass of pumice that erupted during the volcanic eruption covered the surface of the sea over a wide area which was then washed ashore at higher levels than the tsunami caused by the eruption. In most of the surrounding areas of the Aegean, pieces of pumice were found that seem to have been carried to the surface of the sea. Pumice was also found on the northern coasts of Crete, the coasts of Anafi, Lemnos, Paros, Samothrace, Cyprus even Israel. Experts have discovered traces of this eruption even as far as the Nile Delta in Egypt.
Today, what constitutes Santorini is a large part of the (previously circular) crescent-shaped island, which is also the largest caldera on Earth.