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Home PageWhat to seeMonumentsMinoan peak sanctuary

Minoan peak sanctuary

Within a short distance from the archaeological site of Palaiopolis in Kastri, stands the mountain of Agios Georgios. In 1991 Mr. Adonis Kyrou, renown publisher of “Estia” magazine, made a very important discovery there. On an August noon Mr. Kyrou, known for his passion for archaeology, was climbing the steep mountainside that overlooks the beach of Avlemonas when he noticed something shiny on a small dirt road and: it was a small bronze statue; looking around he realized that the place was full of broken ceramics! He immediately informed mr. Giannis Sakelarakis, Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology who within a few days arrived at Kythera with his wife Effie, also an archaeologist.

A brief visit to Agios Georgios on the Mountain was enough to convince all three that they were in the Minoan Peak Sanctuary of Avlemonas. The Archaeological Service was immediately alerted and made a brief sample excavation the following year, reaching the conclusion that people had never abandoned the peak and the sanctuary had not been looted. Excavations began in 1992 and ended in 1994. On the mountain of St. George, at an altitude of 355m the “Minoan Peak Sanctuary” was discovered; the excavation proved significant for the study of Minoan religion since the particular sanctuary was the only one to remain untouched, in opposition to the numerous looted peak sanctuaries in Crete. The findings include sacred stone objects (one of them is Linear A incised), clay figurines of animals, bronze idols and votives, jewelry and ceramics. The most important fact is that 83 Minoan bronze figurines were added to the 170 overall discovered so far- a real treasure. In Christian times the church of Agios Georgios was built in this ancient place of worship. A mosaic with various motifs, hunting scenes and Hellenistic meanders is still visible on the church floor, dating the church around the 7th century AD. In nowadays the church of Agios Georgios is renovated and along with the church of Agioi Anargyroi in Paleokastro form the two oldest Christian monuments of Kythera.

The Church celebrates the memory of Agios Georgios with pilgrims setting the traditional local feast at the courtyard, the way Greek people usually celebrate the particular saint. It is noteworthy that from the height of 350 meters where the church is, one can monitor not only the southwest coast of the Peloponnese, from Kavo Malias to Taygetus, but also much of the Aegean Sea. On a clear sky day you can see to the south Antikythera and the mountains of Crete, Lefka Ori (the White Mountains) and Psiloritis, while east to the horizon are Milos and Santorini – a rather important aspect for early navigation as from here one controls all marines passes from north to south and from east to west, so the choice of constructing the Minoan Temple on Agios Georgios mountain is quite natural.

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