PAROS - ATTRACTIONS
This is one of the best-preserved Paleo-Christian monuments in Greece. According to legend, the original church was constructed by Saint Constantine, first Emperor of Constantinople, after the offering of his mother, Saint Helene. During her journey to the Holy Land to search for the Holy Cross, a storm brought Saint Helene to Paros, where she promised the Virgin to build a church if her quest were successful. This church was built by her son Constantine after her death and was dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. The original church was constructed in the 4th century AD and was a three-aisled basilica. In the 6th century AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian made reformations to the church and added a dome. More reformations were performed through centuries and today the church is a complex of Paleochristian, Byzantine and post-Byzantine elements. Considering that the first Christians used to build their churches with parts of the ancient temples, this church also has marble parts from antiquities located in Paros. The name Ekatontapiliani means the Church with the Hundred Doors. According to tradition, the church has 99 doors and a secret door will open when the church of Hagia Sofia in Constantinople becomes Orthodox again. The entire complex of Ekatontapiliani comprises the main church of Virgin Mary with the internal chapels of Agios Anargiros, Agios Philippos and Osia Theoktisti. Outside the main church, there are the chapels of Agios Nikolaos, Agia Theodosia and Agios Dimitrios. In the yard of the monastery, there is also a baptistery and the cells of the monks. The Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapiliani is considered the protector of Paros and its icon is believed to be miracle-working. The church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani is located few yards from the port of Parikia.
The splendid Frankish Castle is one of the most enduring monuments on the island of Paros. It was built in the 1200s by the Venetian Sanoudos. Scholars believe that the castle was built from the vestiges of an assortment of ancient sanctuaries that were scattered around the island of Paros. The Frankish Castle stands out for its splendid architecture. The castle is conspicuous for its intricate stonework and the hundred-footer Hekatompedon that is fabricated into its walls. The elongated tower integrates all the elements of a 4th century globular edifice, built during the Frankish era. Part of the circular edifice is used as apse of the castle`s in-house chapel. The basis of an ancient temple which is believed to date back all the way to 530 BC. Along with the temple ruins, there are also scattered remnants of ancient residences. Needless to say, a visit to Paros is incomplete without a visit to this magnificent castle which stands as a mute testimony to the rich virile past of Paros.
Located 2 miles south of Parikia, near the Monastery of Jesus of Woods, this valley is popularly referred to as Petaloudes. Every year during the summer months, the valley is verdant and the Jersey Tiger Moths seem to have wrapped the entire valley thereby creating a truly breathtaking natural phenomenon. The graceful trees of the valley give out a sweet fragrance that in turn draws the butterflies like magnet. This valley is in fact a very important biotope for these moths, which in Greece can only be found on Paros and Rhodes, while in the rest of the world you can admire them in a couple of places in Turkey and Britain.
The Butterfly Valley is nicely tucked away on the foot of a hill just beneath a natural well. The Valley is clearly demarcated from the main road that passes above it. The most adventurous way to reach the Butterfly Valley is by donkey! However, there are organized excursions from Naoussa or Parikia, and of course, you can always take a bus or a taxi and get there on your own. The entire area is quite similar to a park and there are well defined pathways that meander through the length and breadth of the Butterfly Valley. You will be able to spot the butterflies in shaded areas close to the stone fences or in bushes. Very often it is difficult to spot them as the butterflies camouflage themselves in the color of the leaves. They are literally clinging to each other and there is very little difference between them and the leaves. Visitors are advised not to disturb the butterflies. If you don`t manage to take a picture of them, there is a small shop at the entrance gate, which has a good collection of postcards of the butterflies from the valley.
The Venetian Fort of Naoussa is located in the old port and it is the most characteristic spot of this lovely town. Originally constructed in the 15th century by the Venetians, the fortress was used as a watchtower for pirate and enemy attacks and as a frontline in times of war. Its location was very convenient for surveillance over the Aegean Sea and due to its architecture, it was very difficult for enemy ships to approach the close port where commercial ships used to moor. Today only part of this fort survives; a half-submerged watchtower that is connected to the mainland with a short path. Originally there was a second watchtower that no longer survives. These towers had a large iron gate that made commercial transactions easier. Just opposite the fort of Naoussa, there are today lovely bars and fish taverns. In the past, on the location of these bars, there were Venetian storehouses.
The Monastery of Jesus of the Woods is also known as the Monastery of Transfiguration of Christ. This is a nunnery (female monastery) constructed 2.5 miles from Parikia, close to the Valley of Butterflies. The katholikon of the monastery is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Christ, while on the northern side of the yard, there is a church dedicated to Agios Arsenios (1800-1877), the protector saint of Paros Island. In fact, the grave and the skull of the saint are guarded in this monastery. Before turning into a monastery, the building was actually the residence of Mavrogenis Family till 1973, when the family donated it to the Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapyliani. In 1805, the building housed the first monastic community.
The Monastery of Logovarda is located about 3 miles northeast of Parikia. This church is dedicated to Zoodohos Pighi, meaning the life giving source. Constructed in 1638, it has an imposing architecture and the white as the dominating color, typical of the Cyclades. The main church has nice wall paintings and valuable icons. The monastery also has an interesting library with rare books and manuscripts. The Monastery of Logovarda is open in the morning and visits are allowed only to men, properly dressed. This is actually a male monastery that has a hostel and hagiography workshop.