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The cave of Antiparos

The cave of Antiparos is situated on the southeastern side of the island W on the hill of Agios loannis at the height of 177 metres above sea level and is well known all over the world as possibly the oldest cave in Greece.

The inhabitants of Antiparos have known about the cave for many centuries, but the inside of the cave remained undiscovered until 1673, when the French ambassador to Constantinople, marquis de Nouadel, visited the island. The purpose of his trip was to visit the cave because according to his information he would be able to locate some valuable archaeological finds to take back to France. He and his escorts entered the cave by climbing down ropes and were amazed to find nature's wonderful creation, which they lit up with large candles, oil lamps and dry firewood.

As it was Christmas, the Marquis de Nouadel decided immediately to perform mass on the top of a stalagmite, which looked like an altar. When the ceremony was over, a Latin inscription was carved on the stalagmite. The inscription can even be seen today. When translated into English it means " Here Christ himself celebrated Midnight Mass on Christmas 1673". The cave was visited by the first king and queen of Greece, Otho and Amalia on the 27th September 1840. However, the earliest visitor to the cave on record was Archilochos, a lyrical poet from Paros, who lived from 728-650 B.C.
The arched entrance to the cave is 20 metres wide and about 8 metres high. The vaulted entrance is P" guarded by the picturesque 18th-century church of Agios loannis Spiliotis (St John of the Cave). The enormous stalagmite, which is in the entrance to the cave, is the oldest in Europe and is estimated to be 45 million years old. On descending the 411 steps towards the heart of the cave, more than a 100 metres deep, visitors face a truly breathtaking spectacle at each turn. All around there are spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites, some of them, sadly, mutilated by earlier visitors's vandalisms. During the Russian occupation of 1770-74, Russian officers cut off many stalactites that can be seen today at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The cave was also damaged by the Italians during the Second World War.
The area of the cave is about 5600 square metres and the temperature in the winter about 15 degrees centigrade and the humidity about 65%. The cave was formed by corrosion of the limestone. It has been estimated that to create one centimetre of a stalagmite, it takes 80 to 120 years.
In the old days, visitors would arrive by caique to the small port of Apandima, and from there donkeys would take them up the hill. Today the cave is taken care of by the community and served by frequent bus schedules.

Resource : "Explore the blue magazine"