The traditional settlement rouses from the lethargy for few days only celebrating the memory of St. Athanassios. The messages of protection and ecotourist development haven't arrived here yet...
Being built up on a stony flat at Thassos mountainous heart and surrounded by deep ravines and gorges, the Castle, preserves the signs of past, the medieval erections and vestiges of Gattilusie the Genoa dynasty still. On centuries passing, the settlement got through periods of glamour and decline but remained however an everlasting place of secrets and miracles, a cradle of culture and harmonic coexistence of man and nature. In nowadays being already abandoned by its inhabitants, the Castle rouses from the lethargy for few only days, bang in the middle of winter, to become again the centre of St. Athanassios' celebration day. Music and songs reverberated through the mediaeval narrow streets; the house chimneys smoke and the inhabitants meet around the big common table "the coulbani". The days of fiesta are passing over however very quickly and Castle is left again into the ravages of time and the barbarity of certain arbitrary settlement interventions. Although it is declared to be a traditional settlement since 1978, it seems that many more years of loneliness will spread through, until it will be protected and promoted...
Like an impervious ring
Being built up on an altitude of 450m (the biggest of all Thassos' settlements), the Castle was a fortress situs of Gattilusi the Genoa dynasty that had the island in its occupancy during the period 1414-1455. Based on three inscriptions that are now walled in St. Athanassios' church, the first fortification of the settlement was made on 1403 including the castle, the water reservoir and the tower. Gattilusi family reinforced the fortification on 1414-1416. After the Turkish occupancy, the Castle inhabitation seems to be increased with inhabitants from other settlements of the island and refugees from Constantinople. The third inscription (1462) attributes the Castle's reconstruction to two Constantinopolitans, Constantinos and loannis. The fact is that the settlement became an important commercial centre of the island having a great flourishing until the end of 19th century. The Castle owns its historical identity partially to its location. It has been erected on a rocky flat area that is detached by deep ravines from the surrounding mountain volumes, and shapes therefore a small impervious ring.
In settlement centre, the most even part of it, the church with its bell-tower and arched arcade stands by along with the ruins of an old cafe and the school built up on 1897. A high stonewall with two entrances, eastwards and northwestwards encompasses this complex. By the rocky edges of the settlement the precinct of modern days communal cemetery - that coincides with the medieval precinct - and the arched-roofed reservoir stand by along with the tower foundations that were used as ossuary.
St. Athanassios' Church
Thassos - KastroThe church of St. Athanassios is dated, according to its proprietary inscription, back to January 1804. Based on the tradition it was built up, after a licence given by the Sultan, within forty days. Since the time should not be transgressed the whole village was participating to its construction. The stones been used were coming from the old castle ruins and that is the explanation of the three medieval inscriptions transfer and walling on church's south wall. The one though that depicts Gattilusi's blazon was placed up down. The eldest still remember the church at its acme, the time when four priests officiated. It's not random that the church is still the epicentre of settlement's periodic even resuscitation and continues to celebrate the memory of St. Athanassios on January 18th. Architectonically the church is a three-aisles wooden roofed basilica with arched arcade along its south side, where "coulbani" is roofed, the large table (dinner) that all inhabitants share it on St, Athanassios's celebration day. It is a typical sample of Thassian ecclesiastic architecture that has of course a wide application all around Balkan areas during the Turkish domination.
A protection regime
St. Athanassios' church is characterised as a historic scheduled monument under a ministerial decision of 1980, "because..., it is one of the oldest churches of Thassos that preserves many authentically figures useful for the study of ecclesiastic architecture of 19th century and the island history generally". It is subject for its protection to 12th Superintendence of Byzantine Antiquities (of Kavala) and Culture Ministry. In regards with the other settlement of Castle, there is a presidential decree since 1978 that characterizes it as a traditional one and determines as its protection carrier the Ministry of Public Works. Since 1990, such a competency was assigned to Ministry of Macedonia - Thrace. Since then not any essential movement for the protection and development of the settlement has been made neither from the Ministry nor from any other carrier. It is therefore only on hands of the inhabitants and the local associating vehicles to be activated on Castle's redemption, in order to remain as a common cultural inheritance and not to have the chance of many other traditional settlements - inside or outside of Thassos - that got vanished due to irrational, arbitrary settling development.
Sources: An article of Mrs. Stavroula Dadaki, archaeologist of Kavala Superintendence of Byzantine Antiquities, Mrs. Sapfo P. Ageloudaki "St. Athanassios the Castle of Thassos" from National Metsovio Polytechnic publication "Churches in Greece after the Fall", Haralampos Bakirtzis, "Three inscriptions in the Castle of Thassos" from the first volume of "Thassiaka" (1984).