Chora and the castle
The castle frames the Chora of Folegandros with its northern side being suspended at the edge of a 210m steep cliff. It started being built in 1215 by the Venetian admiral Marcos Sanoudos, founder of the Duchy of the Aegean and changed hands three times. The desire of Folegandros inhabitants to have safe residences inside the walls and be secure against pirates is depicted on the castle interior structure. As it was difficult to build a castle with enough room to accommodate 200 and more families, they started building “monospita” (single-room houses). These were stone cubic buildings of 9Χ3m resembling monastic cells, built in this way for another reason as well. The Phoenicean Junipers used as support beams for the roof have always been few and short in the island. The walls, however, had to be compact and lead to no exit. They had no side windows, so that they formed a series of smaller hermetic spaces not allowing the army of invaders to develop.
In the years of the Venetian and the Turkish rule, the houses of the castle were deliberately not plastered so as not to be visible from the sea. The large height of the cliff protected them from the shellfire of the navy.
The sense of the Aegean measure and the cubist ratio is disseminated in the most picturesque neighborhood of the castle. You can enter Paraporti, at the height of the church of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross). At this point, the landings are always clean and plastered and you may even sit on them. As you cross the landing, you may find Loggia, the main entrance of the castle. In the roofed passage, the so-called “Megalo Skiadi” was once decorated by the bell that hanged there and rang every night so that the monks were gathered and the iron gates were closed.
The ideal way to end your tour inside the walls is to reach the door step of Pantanassa by the sunset. It is a masterpiece of the Aegean church architecture. From the point where it was built, the view over the sea goes all the way to Milos, Kimolos and Sifnos.
The largest houses inside the walls have cisterns and rooms decorated with marble corbels. They were built at the end of the 19th century.
The first in order site of Chora is located exactly where the buses from Karavostasis stop. It is the square of Pounta with the unparallel view over the sea and the guardrail at the northern side. No doubt it is regarded one of the most beautiful natural balconies over the Aegean. Walking in the narrow street penetrating into the urban fabric of the well-preserved village you will see on your left the elegant church of Timios Stravros (Holy Cross). A little further you reach Paraporti (Side Gate), the small entrance to the castle from Kato Rouga.
Then you meet the square with the tall trees named Ntounavi (Danube). The huge cisterns with the rainwater in its basements were built in 1770 and that was the reason why they took their name after the largest river in Europe. The parish church of Chora dedicated to Agios Nikolaos dominates over the southern side and if you are lucky, you may attend a traditional wedding on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
On the opposite side, on the right of Agios Nikolaos, Agios Taxiarchis is located. The white blocks of these churches separate the Ntounavi square from Kontarini square, which is the heart of the island’s nightlife.
Another complex of churches (Agios Antonios, Agia Aikaterini and Agios Fanourios) lies between this square and the next one called Piatsa. This is the oldest square of Chora and if you look at photos taken in 1891, you will realize that it has not changed at all.
Passing by the lively Piatsa by taking the narrow street, where another picturesque church beautifully rests, Theoskepasti, with the Latin-type belfry, you reach Maraki square. This belongs to the newer part of Chora, surrounded by shopping stores and cafes that maintain the traditional beauty. Two parallel narrow streets lead you to a bigger paved road ending to the exit of Chora in the direction of Ano Meria. There are guestrooms and bars. You can admire some neoclassical buildings, which were built by Folegandros people who used to trade in Alexandria and Istanbul.