The Village on the Cliff
Known worldwide for its breathtaking views, the village of Imerovigli has appropriately been referred to as the “balcony to the Aegean.” In fact, Imerovigli can be broken down to the Greek words imera (day) and vigla (watchtower), hinting to the village’s importance to the island of Santorini in protecting against incoming attacks from pirates.
At the highest point of the caldera, Imerovigli boasts amphitheatric views of all of Santorini; from the top point of the village of Oia, to the capital Fira, down to the prehistoric town of Akrotiri and out toward the remaining small islands which together comprise the municipality of Santorini.
The giant volcanic sculpture which juts out from Imerovigli once served as much more than just a geographical landmark or a stunning spot to catch the sunset. Skaros was formerly a Medieval fortress, the capital of Santorini with a thriving settlement, and the most important of five fortifications which served to protect the island.
Immediately built by Venetian Giacomo Barozzi in 1207 when Cycladic ruler and first Duke of Naxos Marco Sanudo handed him the island, Skaros held 200 houses below its Epano Kastro (upper castle) which was situated at the peak of the rock and equipped with a movable wooden bridge which connected the castle to the rest of the island.
The former Kato Kastro (lower castle) was built in the early 17th century and its construction helped create residence for Westerners, Catholics and eventually Orthodox. There were administrative buildings, residences for noblemen, cathedrals, churches and monasteries. Unfortunately, the major earthquake of 1650 and repeated quakes from 1701 through 1711 caused considerable damage to Skaros, prompting the Venetian noble families to move to Fira, which would become the island’s new capital.
The inhabitants who deserted Skaros before it collapsed created the village of Imerovigli as it is known today. Building networks began creation in the late 16th century as the village grew linearly along the caldera rim with complex and narrow paths which still wind through all of Imerovigli. Today, Skaros is left uninhabited with the exception of a small church, the Chapel of Agios Ioannis Apokefalistheis, which faces out into the sea. Only few ruins remain from the former numerous amounts of dwellings on Skaros Rock.