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Aphrodite of Milos  

Catacombs

(2nd century – 5th century AD)

Since the early Roman period, a thriving Jewish community, occupied with mining and trade, existed in Milos. When Adrian ordered the Christian persecutions in Palestine, many Jews left to be saved and some of them settled in Milos.

It is believed that they planted the first seed of Christianity on the island that quickly spread around and rooted, as it is evident from the ruins of the Baptistery still apparent in the area between the Catacombs and the hill of Prophet Elias in the town of Klima.

The newly born religion was in need of a secreted and secluded place for congregations, the realisation of religious practises and later on for the burials of the first Christians.

View of the main booth

View of the main booth

Under the pressure of Roman persecutions, they began to use the Catacombs, underground-concealed galleries.

Kimvi” is an ancient Greek word, meaning glass, concave container and by extension boat or ship. Initially, Catacomb was the name of a region in Rome near the river Tiber where commercial boats docked, an area with many caves. Later on, the name was used for the underground crypts employed by the first Christians.

The catacombs of Milos are considered the second most important Paleo-Christian monument in the world, after those of Rome.

Pre-Christian tombs at the entry of the Port

Carved in soft pumice stone, initially in natural caverns, between the village of Trypiti and the ancient city of Klima, approximately 150m above sea level, they have an explored length of 184m. It has been suggested that they cover a much bigger extent that has not yet been excavated.
They consist of three booths and six corridors of varying dimensions and lengths. The tombs are either dug on the ground or carved on the rock alongside the corridors, forming arcosolia* with a rectangular tomb at the bottom.

*The arcosolium
, a tomb typical of the third and the fourth century, is a large niche carved on the rock with an arch above it.

The burials are individual, common and familial. Small “koghes” (niches) are carved on the drums of the arcosolia where oil lamps were placed. Certain inscriptions, names and traces of paintings are partly saved on the walls. They depict paleo-christian symbols as well as the A-Ω reversed, Ω-Α according to the Jewish way of writing, from right to left. 

The German archaeologist Ludwig Ross, keeper of antiquities in Peloponnesus and the Aegean during the Othon regime, initiated the first excavation of the Catacombs in 1844. Ross brought into light and published 12 Christian inscriptions, but most of them are now lost.

The humidity has contributed to the erosion of most of the inscriptions and frescoes. Pirates, locals, conquerors and travellers have repeatedly looted the catacombs. The tombs were left opened and the tombstones almost removed.

The undergound crypts

By the 5th c. AD, that the persecutions of Christians had seized and religious duties could be freely practiced, the catacombs were abandoned. Plans for restoring the monument in the near future have been based on the 3rd Framework of support to Greece*.

*Only a small area of the Catacombs can be visited today (the entry booth).
 

Catacombs of Milos
Open 8:00-19:00 daily, except Mondays
tel. (22870) 22445 & 21625
Trypiti, Milos

 


   
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