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Ekatontapyliani, the so-called Aghia Sophia of the Aegean

The Holy Shrine is in Paroikia, within a short distance from the port. According to Orlando, the church was built by Saint Helen and her son St. Constantinos.

Ignatius, who had apprenticed with Anthemios, the master builder of Aghia Sofia in Constantinople, was commissioned to build Aghia Sofia of the Aegean using almost the same design as the one used for the original church.

The church is a complex of constructions including the main cruciform temple with colonnades and a women’s section, six chapels ( St. Nikolaos, St. Anarghiroi, St. Philip, St. Theodosia, St. Dimitrios, and Venerable Theoktisti, Paroikia’s patron saint), the surrounding grounds with the cells, and the Cruciform Baptismal Font dating back to the 4 cent. AC, the best preserved in the entire eastern orthodox world. In the Temple’s Sanctuary, there is Kivorio, the Altar’s coping stone made of marble and supported by 4 classical period pillars ornate with Corinthian capitals, and Synthrono, a small amphitheatre situated deep in the apse.
August 15th is Panaghia (Virgin Mary) Day and it is celebrated with religious reverence and devout concentration,  while, in the  evening,  there is the procession of the Holy Icon  followed by a great feast taking place  in Paroikia alleys.


Katapoliani is one of the most significant monuments of Christianity in Cyclades.Its name probably comes from the Katapola name (known also in other Aegean Sea islands), while the word “Ekatontapyliani”, related to a legend about 100 doors, is probably a literary variation of the place name.According to the tradition, the building of the Holy Temple of Panaghia is linked to Saint Helen (see above).

It is a cruciform Basilica with colonnades forming naves and had originally a wooden roof.In the Justinian Period (527-565), the roof was replaced with arches and the cupola with a dome.The complex also features a vestibule, a Baptismal Font and the Aghios Nikolaos chapel, almost all architectural members of which come from ancient buildings.In the Post-Byzantine Period, the temple of Aghia Theodosia (1619) at the northern external side of the big temple, the Aghios Dimitrios chapel, the eastern end of the south arcade and cells were added to the temple.

Using ancient architectural members in building Christian temples is a common practice in Greece.

It is calculated that more than 2,500 architectural members were used to construct the Panaghia Holy Temple, the Baptismal Font and the Aghios Nikolaos chapel. The marble pilasters located to the right and left of the entrance to the main temple of Panaghia come from an altar of the Classical Period, decorated with triglyphs devoted to Eleftherios Zeus, as demonstrated by a sign embossed between the triglyphs.

All arches over the square pillar array come from Archaic temples located at the Castle site, while the epistyles, embedded in the main temple, come from a temple dating back to the Hellenistic Period.Pieces (forty in total) of epistyles from the same temple have been used as building materials in the construction of the Venetian Castle (see above). The pillars and their bases come from buildings of the Hellenistic Period that have undergone several conversions and processing in the Byzantine period, in order to be used in the great Christian church.Ionian moldings from buildings mainly of the Classical Period have been used in the construction of the chancel screen.The eastern wall to the right of the temple embeds a part of a marble sign probably coming from the temple of Serapis on the island.The altar is made of a great piece of an Archaic molding and four pillars of the Hellenistic Period.

The Aghios Nikolaos temple embeds seven Doric capitals, as well as two epistyle parts from temples dating back to the Late Archaic Period.

According to studies carried out by Professor Gruben, a complex of architectural members used in the Byzantine temple is considered to be of ancient origin.It consists of an Ionian capital that formed at least two angles and surrounded an indoor area.After matching other architectural members, such as domes, an arch and an altar, it was presumed that the architectural members belonged to a sanctuary of Hestia and to a Prytaneion.Two signboards related to the sanctuary of Hestia support this opinion.

In the Baptismal Font, nine parts of ancient epistyles were used as beams above the pillars of the lateral aisles.Other parts are built in the middle entrance to the Baptismal Font, the atrium and the Aghios Nikolaos Holy Temple.Two great Ionian pillars together with their bases are rescued at their original site, at a depth of 1.50 m., at the floor of the nave of the Panaghia Holy Temple. They were grounded on a mosaic from the ancient Gymnasium of the 3rd century AD. A part of that mosaic depicting scenes from the Adventures of Hercules is exhibited at the atrium of the Museum.


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