Ano Syros. Eight centuries of history and culture overlook the Aegean Sea (book)
Ano Syros. A rare cultural jewel
Arriving at the harbour of Hermoupolis, the image seen by the visitor is the most typical of Syros: a large city that spreads wide and climbs on two hills. On the top of each hill a large church: the Resurrection on the right and Saint George on the left.
These two hills symbolise the special cultural identity of Syros: the Resurrection is Orthodox, Saint George is Catholic and they represent the two religious communities that inhabit the island.
Arriving at Syros by boat: on the left the hill of San Tzortzis with the church of Saint George, on the right the hill of Anastasia with the church of the Resurrection
At first sight, they look like two hills of about the same height, where Hermoupolis has climbed. In fact, however, the left hill is much taller. It’s just more to the rear and its height is not visible. And it’s not Hermoupolis going up on it. It’s a medieval fortified town, seven centuries older than Hermoupolis. And completely, but completely different.
In the foreground, the 19th-century neoclassic Hermoupolis, in the background the 13th-century medieval fortified town of Ano Syros
Hermoupolis is the largest neoclassical ensemble of Greece, founded only in 1822. It was once the largest city of the new Greek state, its largest port and its cultural capital (the article on Hermoupolis, here http://culturehikes.com/en/hermoupolis-syros-incarnation-greek-miracle/).
On the other hand, Ano Syros is one of the best preserved medieval fortified towns of the Aegean, founded in the 13th century. And moreover, it’s one of the few that are still inhabited. This further increases its importance. Which, in any case, is particularly great because of its historical and architectural value.
In 1207, three years after the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade occupied the Byzantine Empire, Marco Sanudo, a Venetian aristocrat, nephew of the doge Enrico Dandolo, occupied most of the Cycladic islands. He founded the Duchy of the Archipelago and settled in Naxos. This state included Syros.
And then the cultural specificity of this island began being created.
When Greece was conquered by the crusaders, most of the inhabitants remained Orthodox. Catholicism was mostly represented by the feudal aristocracy of the conquerors.
But Tinos and Syros are an exception to this rule. Here, the majority of the population embraced Catholicism. This was a long process that lasted throughout the Venetian domination and continued during the Ottoman domination after the conquest of the Cyclades by the Turks.
This was practically done in 1537, with the attack of Hayreddin Barbarossa, the Ottoman Admiral-of-the-Fleet, and typically in 1566, when the last Duke of the Archipelago died. Then the islands officially joined the Ottoman Empire.
After the end of the Duchy of the Archipelago
This historical development is reflected in the horizon of the fortified town through the monuments that stand out.
Below the Cathedral of Saint George, we see two historical monasteries: that of the Jesuits and that of the Capuchins. The dome of the former and the bell tower of the latter are typical landmarks in the outline of the hill of Ano Syros.
The hill of Ano Syros, crowned by the cathedral of Saint George. A little below and on the right is the dome of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Jesuit monastery, and farther down and on the right, the bell tower of Saint John of the Capuchin monastery
The rest of the article in this book
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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