Church of the Taxiarch Michael in Anavatos (the Neo Chorio - New village)

Anavatos is a village of central Chios, 20.5 km from the island’s capital. The new village stretches over the foot of a hill. The old village, the so-called “Kastro” (fortress) is situated atop the hill and is uninhabited. After the massacre of Chios in 1822, the new village was founded by residents of the old village, which itself was completely abandoned after the 1881 earthquake.
The holy church of the Taxiarch Michael in the new village is a salient example of 19th-century church architecture. It’s a double-nave basilica that’s seen numerous construction phases over the years. The church of the Taxiarch Michael celebrates its feast day on 8 November. The old church of the same name dominates the highest point of the “fortified settlement” of medieval Anavatos. Built atop sheer rock, its architectural characteristics reminiscent of medieval abodes, Anavatos has rightfully been named the “Mystras” of the Aegean. Travellers who visit the new village of Anavatos should go out of their way to also pay a visit to its medieval counterpart. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience and a unique trip back in time.

9a. Church of the Taxiarch Michael in the Medieval Village of Anavatos  
The old medieval village of Anavatos clings to a sheer 450 m. tall hilltop flanked by two gorges. It’s a unique settlement whose numerous structures emerge from the rock as if one with it.
The first settlers chose this rocky outcrop mainly for defensive purposes, as it provides a naturally fortified location, safe from enemy raids.
The picturesque, ruined settlement in the Kastro is crowned by the imposing church of the Taxiarch Michael. The Kastro at Anavatos was divided into four neighbourhoods: Taxiarchis, Panagia, Kakouin and Steni Porta. The neighbourhood of Taxiarchis preserves one of two barrel-vaulted “diavatika”-a type of covered road, a stoa in other words. The church of the Taxiarch Michael is a vital monument of the post-Byzantine period. Out of the total of 112 structures in the picturesque, abandoned village of old Anavatos, those in the best condition are a three-storey building and the church of the Taxiarch.

9b. Anavatos (general overview)
Medieval Anavatos is a fortified settlement perched atop a rocky outcrop. According to the research of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Chios, its founding dates to the 15th century, during the period of Genoese rule over Chios. However, it nevertheless exhibits several earlier characteristics. These indicate a Byzantine settlement, with the use of architectural practices that belong to the Byzantine period. The archaeological finds, town plan, coins and ceramics discovered all show that the settlement pre-dates the surrender of Chios to the Ottomans in 1566. The medieval village developed among the rocks, small plots of land with olive groves, almond, fig and pistachio trees, and vineyards.
The name Anavatos -Greek for a hard-to-access, isolated position- makes perfect sense when the location of the settlement is considered. The surrounding environment is breathtaking. Visitors and tourists are sure to find medieval Anavatos, with its other-worldly stone architecture that feels frozen in time, an attractive destination for sightseeing. Anavatos was designed as a fortified settlement. Access to the village is through the footpath that ascends the hill and leads to the gate.
The Kastro has all the hallmarks of a fortified position: curtain walls, cramped construction of structures and a single gate on the northern side. More particularly, the limited available space and steep gradation of the local ground forced the inhabitants to build their homes without any space in between, not to mention with their backs turned towards the settlement’s walls to serve as parts of the fortification. The settlement’s Citadel is divided into two parts. Of these, the northern part is clearly organised on either side of a central street, while much of the southern part is in ruins.
Two prominent Ottoman-period buildings tower over the area. One of these, the church of the Taxiarch, is a double-nave basilica. The other is the so-called “three-storey” building. Its construction was adapted to the gradations in the rock, and it housed an olive press on the lowest floor, a school on the middle floor and a place of worship dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin on the highest.
Overall, the medieval settlement is criss-crossed by two almost parallel streets that lead north to south, from the Citadel gate to the newer section that dates to the late 19th century. Other streets run perpendicular or in parallel to these two central streets, splitting the village into urban blocks. The naturally defensible rocky outcrop on which the village was established was further bolstered by the curtain wall, which currently only survives in part. For reasons of security, the outer wall was bolstered in places by the stone-built houses. Visitors to Anavatos should stop for a moment and take in the village from a distance. It’s worth seeing how it emerges almost naturally from the rock and the low-lying vegetation.
The village houses were all built with their façades opening onto the streets. Most of these had only a single space (and in rare cases a second, smaller space) and were covered by vaults and roof terraces. Vertically, these homes were separated into two floors by wooden floorboards. The lower floor usually had limited space and may have served as a shelter for the family’s livestock while the upper floor was the family’s living quarters. Some dwellings also had a type of mixed floor, where a domed construction was combined with the floorboards or where the entirety of the ground floor was completely covered by a domed ceiling with a staircase for access.
The houses in Anavatos had small and simple, undecorated doors and windows. A main entrance provided access to either the ground or first floor, while each house had one to three windows. As far as amenities go, many of these houses had fireplaces or hearths, with alcoves cut into the walls serving as storage spaces. The houses were all constructed with stone-work masonry, using the readily available local limestone.
The settlement was decimated by Ottoman reprisals in 1822 but continued to be inhabited until its final abandonment in the wake of the destructive 1881 earthquake. The few survivors of that disaster went on to found a new settlement, known today as the Neo Chorio.

9c / 72.2 Anavatos (Anavatos2)
Beyond its vital historical value, the settlement of Anavatos is noteworthy thanks to the unique construction techniques used in its buildings. The “Three-storey” building dominates the eastern and only entrance to the Kastro. It once housed a “Loutrouvio” (an olive press), a school, a cistern and the church of the Virgin.
The olive press was housed on the ground floor. Here, olives would be crushed under large millstones to extract their oil. Above, the first floor housed the school (consisting of two rooms) and the cistern, where rainwater would be gathered via large clay channels to provide a source of water for the settlement in the event of a siege.
The roof of the cistern was the floor of the church of the Presentation of the Virgin, itself covered by a saddleback roof. The church celebrates its feast day on 21 November. The Bema preserves a fresco of the Pantokrator dated to the 19th century. The south-eastern floor exhibits evidence of the Turkish massacre of 1822.
A short distance north-west, just above the Church, the so-called Prison, Court and Secret School stand, while the Fortified church of the Taxiarch dominates the crest of the Citadel, the highest point of the Kastro. During the massacre of Chios in 1822, the Turks torched the church, which was rebuilt in the aftermath only to be destroyed again in the 1881 earthquake.
Nearby and to the north-west of the Taxiarch stands the ruined house of Psaros, where the residents of Anavatos barricaded themselves and fended off a Turkish attack from the Amoni heights. The church of the Taxiarch that stands in the modern-day settlement of Anavatos was erected in the wake of the 1881 earthquake and celebrates on 8 November.

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