Kato Kastro” – Lower Castle
The “Lower Castle” used to be one of the most important castles in the Aegean. Today, it is ruined, although it remains one of the touristic attractions of Andros.
The Lower Castle was built on a small peninsula and on an islet at the eastern part of the island of Andros, where Chora is located today. The site offered natural protection being surrounded on three sides by water with only the western one facing the mainland.
The name of the castle in Greek is “Kato Kastro” which means Lower Castle to distinguish from the other major castle of Andros, the Upper Castle or Castle of Faneromeni.
The castle is often mentioned also as “Mesa Kastro” (Inner Castle), a name that usually refers to the part on the mainland only.
After the 4th Crusade and the Fall of Constantinople in 1204, the Latins turned to other parts of the Byzantine empire. Andros was captured by the Venetians in 1207. Their leader was Marino Dandolo, a nephew of The Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, one of the heads of the 4th Crusade.
The Venetians built three major castles in Andros: the Lower Castle (the modern Chora), the Upper Castle (also known as Phaneromeni) and the fort of Makrotantalo (or Ostodosia). The first two were fortified settlements, while the third was a simple outpost, probably manned by a small garrison.
The Lower Castle was built by Marino Dandolo almost immediately after the capture of the island. He started by building his mansion on the little island at the tip of the peninsula.
The castle was in very good condition until World War II. Then in 1943, the Germans bombed the port of Andros and the castle was almost completely destroyed.
The settlement was surrounded by a single curtain-wall, formed by the back walls of the inhabitant’s houses. What remains nowadays from this wall is a small part of the curtain founded on bedrock. The construction of the settlement’s enclosure is typical for the Aegean islands during the Frankish period, especially for those belonging to the Venetians of the Ducat of Archipelagos (such as Sifnos, Antiparos, Kimolos).
The peninsula ends in a small fortified islet that functions as the castle’s citadel. The islet is in fact a high rock that offers natural protection on its own. It is presently connected to the settlement through a round-arched stone-bridge. Without doubt, both parts of the Lower Castle, the fortified settlement and the islet fort, are contemporary, conforming thus to a common medieval practice.
Two towers survive, a large rectangular one at the center of the enclosure (Central Tower), and a smaller one at its northeast corner. The towers consisted of a cistern at ground level and one or more floors suitable for habitation that are not preserved. The cisterns were plastered with hydraulic coating and were covered with anointed Gothic vault. Both buildings should be dated to the first half of the 13th century.
Pano Kastro – Upper Castle
Pano Kastro (meaning “Upper castle”) or Castle of Faneromeni or castle of Kochylos or castle of Gria (meaning “Old lady”) was the largest medieval city-fortress of Andros. It is built on a plateau with very good natural fortification at an elevation 0f 560 meters.
It was not a huge place but it could provide sufficient protection for a population of 1000.
Generally, it is considered a Venetian fortification, although it is possible that a settlemment existed there since the Byzantine period and it was fortified and developed by the Venetians after the 13th century.
Nothing special is known about the history of the city. It never attracted a large population in periods of peace and it must have been abandoned around the 17th century, when the era of piracy was over.
Τοwer of Bistis Mouvelas
It was built in the 17th century by Stamatelos Bistis who had also the nickname “Mouvlelas” which means the representative of the Turkish Kadi. In 1674, Andros was looted by pirates and after that, the rich were looking for safer locations in the interior of the island. So the tower was built after 1674 and certainly before 1696, as it is certain that Bistis was already living there. The house was built over an older medieval tower from the 13th century. In the 19th century, two walls were added at the sides to support the building, thus increasing its volume.
St Peter’s Tower
St. Peter’s Tower, according to the most prevalent theory, stands in the Gavrion area in a particularly privileged position from the Hellenistic Period (4th – 3rd century BC). It is cylindrical with a height of 20 meters, a base diameter of about 9.4 meters, made entirely of local slate. Inside, a helical stairway leading to at least five floors survives. Its preserved height and its complex structure make it a unique monument of its kind and one of the best maintained Cyclades. Its dominant position overlooking the sea has given many theories about its use and function. There are many different opinions between archaeologists and historians about the construction period. According to some, it was built at the time of Pelasgians, before the descent of the Greek tribes, and it served as a fortification for the inhabitants who were far away from the capital of Palaiopoli. Some others, considering the existence of a tower opposite at Rethi area, believe that it was used to exchange signals with fire. Apparently, the role of the monument was to control the land and the sea.
St Peter’s Tower has a base with impressive dimensions. Its walls are made of huge stones, without binder, with a length of more than three meters and thickness of one. The stones are hand-crafted, and the surface of the walls is smooth. Clearly, for security reasons, the entrance door is narrow with a height of 1.3 meters, oriented towards the mountainside. More openings appear around the tower at higher elevations, serving as cloaks and defence positions for archers. To enter someone in the circular room, he had to bend. In this way, the enemy could not perceive the narrow square opening above the entrance that used to access the second floor and could inevitably fall into a trap. A helical staircase gave access to the other floors up to the roof of the tower, from which nowadays 25 stairs made of slate are preserved. The outer wall displays infrastructure elements for additional defence installations.