An ambitious restoration project has been initiated to breathe new life into Skiathos Castle, located on the Northern tip of the island in Greece.
The castle, which dates back to at least the 14th century AD but surrounded an older settlement founded in the 6th or 7th century AD, has long been inaccessible. Now, however, there are plans to restore historical monuments at the site and make footpaths more accessible to visitors.
Numerous state service personnel, along with a team of experts, are diligently collaborating to restore the castle to its former glory. Their efforts encompass a delicate equilibrium between progress and the preservation of significant historical landmarks, religious sites, and the breathtaking natural scenery of the island.
Restoration underway of Skiathos Castle
This restoration project is the result of a partnership among the Skiathos Municipal Authority, tasked with conducting essential research, the Thessaly Regional Authority, responsible for securing the necessary funds, and the Ministry of Culture, overseeing its implementation. The project embodies a multifaceted initiative under the purview of the Thessaly Regional Operational Program 2014-2022, supported by the European Union.
The ephorate assumes responsibility for one of the dual projects initiated by the Culture Ministry on the island. With an allocated budget of 900,000 euros, this endeavor encompasses the vital task of stabilizing and restoring the castle’s internal monuments. These include the churches of Christ, Agios Nikolaos, Panagia Prekla, and Panagia Megalomata, along with the mosque and chancellery. A concerted effort to renovate and enhance the cobblestone pathways aims to provide a seamless touring experience for visitors.
Concurrently, the Culture Ministry and the Department for the Restoration of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments are advancing a separate project worth 1.9 million euros. This initiative is focused on revitalizing the pathway leading to the castle. The restoration encompasses the stone pillars supporting the bridge leading to the gate, the construction of a new bridge, and the meticulous restoration of the castle gate.
Archaeologist Anna Gialouri, head of the Department of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments and Museums at the Ephorate of Magnesia Antiquities, explains that: “Skiathos Castle was established in the mid-14th century by residents of the old town that had evolved from ancient times. They were forced to move to this steep and rocky outcrop on the northern tip of the island to protect themselves from pirate raids. Nevertheless, there are indications that this particular location had been settled well before the 14th century.”
The history of the site is largely the tale of geostrategic competition between the Ottoman Empire and Venice in the late Medieval period. The castle was under the control of the Byzantine Empire until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. After falling under Venetian rule, local resentment led to a rebellion in 1518. However, an Ottoman siege in 1538 ended Venetian governance, with Ottomans later repairing the castle in 1619. Venetians raided in 1655, and in 1660, Francesco Morosini recaptured it, subjecting locals to harsh occupation. Later, the castle again fell to the Ottomans. Greek rebels attacked during the War of Independence, capturing and plundering the castle in 1826. As Skiathos joined the Greek state in 1829, the castle was abandoned, and the ancient town’s site was reclaimed.
Gialouri elucidates that the small churches within the castle were primarily constructed during the 17th century, as evidenced by frescoes discovered around the altar of Agios Nikolaos. Additionally, the mosque dates back to the latter half of the 16th century. Gialouri further notes that the Church of Christ, formerly the town’s metropolitan church, boasts exquisite beauty, notably attributed to its captivating wood-beamed roof.