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The Ladies in the wall-painting from the House of the Ladies are depicted almost life-size with long black hair, golden earrings, painted lips and cheeks and in Minoan garments, beneath a starish sky (Athens, National Archaeological Museum).

Santorini is an island with a great history. It's all waiting for you to be revealed in its museums, and archaeological sites.

Maritime museum

If you are looking to find out more about Santorini's maritime history, the Maritime Museum in Ia is the place not to miss. Here you will find all kinds of displays featuring marine objects which trace the history of the island, especially during the 19th century.
Opens daily from 11 am to 12 noon and 4 to 5 p.m.

Megaron Gyzi museum

The cultural center of the island is located in a beautiful old mansion called the Megaron Gyzi. Here, the visitor can spend some time observing the exhibitions which give a cultural account of the island's history as well as marvel at the unique 17th century architecture of the mansion with its dome-shaped rooms and pebble stone yards. The 1956 earthquake on the islands caused considerable damage to the mansion but the Catholic Diocese gathered enough funds to restore it to its previous glory and turn it into a cultural center. Among the exhibitions are old manuscripts from the island of the 16th through the 19th century. If one has time, it's worth spending it at the mansion-museum, especially to read some of these manuscripts which give an excellent look at life on Santorini hundreds of years ago. To get an idea of the type of material you would be reading, here are two examples from May 19, 1578: "...at the manor house of mistress maroula Sigalena, Arlados Grimanis was introduced and asked for the daughter of mistress Katerina, to take her as his wife by betrothal. The mistress maroula accepts and gives him a dowry of 1,700 doukata.Arlados Grimanis on his behalf promises to give as dowry for him and his wife, all that he owns and all that he will obtain. If someone changes his mind, he'll have to pay a fine of 100 jekinia, 50 to the proxy and 50 to the party that kept the promise...". "...the proxy of the catholics, and the proxy of the Orthodox residents of Santorini came to an agreement and exchanged two churches that were not in a convenient place for either of them. The Catholics take Panaghia Rozaria's church and the Orthodox the church of Megali Ekaterini in Santorini..." Other exhibitions you can marvel at, in the mansion-museum are engravings of the 16th through the 19th centuries with dresses, views and maps of the Cyclades islands, some old photographs of how Santorini looked before the devastating earthquake of 1956 and paintings of well-known Greek artists who worked on the island. The center is open daily from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm and 5 to 8 p.m. there is a small admission fee.For further information call (0286) 22244 or 22721.

The Church of Episkopi

Located in the village of Mesa Gonia is the beautiful Byzantine church of Panagia Episkopi well worth for a visit. The church is considered the best example of traditional ecclesiastical architecture of the island by Mathaios Mendrinos, author of the booklet "The Church of Episkopi in Santorini" which is distributed by the Ecclesiastical Committee of the church. Mendrinos, who's is a member of the G.P.P Academy of Rome, writes about the church.: "To every Greek, either coming as a simple visitor or as a faithful to pray, this church, inspires both a strong national and religious feeling. National for his history, religious for its sarcacy. A great number of the treasures of the church such as liturgical and ecclesiastical books, priest's vestments and holy vessels were destroyed by the 1915 fire. Only icons had come out safe from the catastrophe. It is said that a hand covered them by the fire and protected them from being burned. It must have been the invisible hand of the Virgin Mary."

The church has survived the invasions of Venetians, Francs, Russians and Turks and still remains as an inspiration to the islanders. Panaghia Episkopi was buit in 1115, but had to withstand not only invasions and fires, but the tremendous earthquake of 1956. Any damages incurred by all these elements were quickly repaired by the faithful. The church is not only known for its ecclesiastical architecture. it is also admired for its remarkable Byzantine paintings and hagiography. A number of important icons can be seen in the church, although it bears to mention that 26 of the finest works were stolen in 1982 and never to be found. August 15th is the feast day of the church and after religious ceremonies, the islanders join in merrymaking with the visitors to Santorini with plenty of food, dancing and singing.

Profitis Ilias Museum

High atop the Profitis Ilias peak, and in the monastery with the same name, is a museum containing basically ecclesiastic items worth seeing for their craftsmanship and unique designs. The museum contains all types of ecclesiastic items, some Byzantine documents, sacred vestments for archbishops and bishops, relics of saints kept in silver boxes as well as monastic crafts. Away from ecclesiastic subjects, the museum also hosts displays on shoemaking, printing, candle making, wine making and of typical local food.

Ancient Thera

Ancient Thira is found on the mountain of Mesa Vouno, resting in-between Kamari and Perissa. This position was chosen by its founders, Lacedaemonians colonizers in 1315, for its strategic, protective and observatory qualities. It was an ideal location for surveillance and control of the South-East Aegean. The bays of Kamari and Perissa provides excellent ports for the ships of these days. From the 9th century B.C until the spread of Cristianity, the city on Mesa Vouno was the only urban city of the island. The first inhabitants were the Dorians, the Cristians and the Venetians. All have contributed to the architectural structure of the city, but the most prominent being the Ptolemies, during the hellenistic period. Excavations were first carried by Hiller Von Gaertringen in 1895.But these excavations were limited due to private funds. Therefore, they concentrated mainly on public buildings. This is why the entire picture of Ancient Thira is still incomplete. All the streets (level or stepped) were paved with stones and frequently crossed by the covered gutters which comprised the drainage system of the city. The main material used for the buildings, both public and private, was the local grayish limestone. Sings to the sites are in German due to the privately funded excavations.

FACTS

369 meters high, 800 meters in length, 150 meters wide
First excavated in 1895

INHABITED BY:

Dorian period (Spartans) 915 B.C - 315 B.C
Hellenistic Period (Ptolemies) 315 B.C - 197 B.C
Rhodians 197 B.C - 145 B.C
Roman Period 145 B.C - 300 A.D
Byzantine Period (Christians) 300 A.D-1204 A.D
Venetian Period 1204 A.D

Istorical and Cultural Museum

While many outstanding archaeological finds from Santorini will be found at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Historical and Cultural Museum of Santorini in Fira contains artifacts from excavations on the island. Of note in the museum are a fine collection of geometric red and black vases from the fifth century B.C. Inscriptions are plentiful among the displays in the museum and a certain amount of Minoan ware is also on exhibit. The museum also hosts impressive frescoes as well as sculptures of the Hellenistic period, Byzantine works of art and even some remains of prehistoric times. Open daily (except Mondays) from 8:30 am to 3 p.m. There is a small admission fee.

Akrotiri Excavations

At the southern end of Santorini is the ancient excavation site of Akrotiri. This site is a must to visit during your stay on the island and one which will impress you. This is one of the archaeological sites in Greece where a good guide, or at least a good guide book, will come handy as explanations are needed for one to really appreciate what unfolds before you. Much of the credit for the finds at Akrotiri, which date back as early as 3000 B.C went to the late Dr Spyridon Marinatos, a well known Greek archaeologist. His work began in the early 30's and lasted until the day he was killed during an accident at the site in 1974. However work did not stop there and continues even today, so don't be surprised to see archaeologists busy at work on the site. Professor Marinatos found the paved streets of Akrotiri lined with multi story houses all connected by a sophisticated central drainage system. Most of the ground floor apartments were used for storerooms, and hundreds of pithy jars and other utensils have been found within them. The upper floors were the living quarters for what appear to have been wealthy families; each house had at least one room lined with frescoes, some among the most magnificent yet found in Greece. These, along with the best of the pottery and stone vases unearthed at Akrotiri, are on exhibit at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The original inhabitants of the town, used to the hazards of life on a volcano, had enough warning from earth tremors to clear out before the eruption, dated about 1500 B.C.; the only remnant of a living thing found during the excavation was the skeleton of a pig. What happened to the people once they left remains a mystery; they may have made it to safety, although no traces have been found, or they may have all died while escaping in the tidal waves that followed the eruption. The archaeologists have added cement support to walls already leaning before the earthquake, and have replaced the wooden beams and frames that were carbonized by the heat of the volcanic eruption. Otherwise, no changes have been made in the site, except to cover it with a protective roof. The site is open daily from 8.30 to 3.00 except Monday, with a small entrance fee charged. regular bus service takes one to the Akrotiri archaeological site from Fira and taxis are also available in the main town.


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