The island of Tilos lies between Halki and Nisyros, The findings at the cave of Harkadio, where bones of dwarf elephants were found, are dated since the Mesolithic era. The island took its name from Tilos. In the second Greek colonization period, in 7th century BC, people from Tilos led by Tilinis, colonized the city Gelas in Sicily. Apart from the poet Irrina, for some of equal value with Sappho, the two famous tyrants Gelonas and Ieronas were also born on Tilos.
Some important dates of the ancient history of the island are: 227-226 BC when a strong earthquake destroyed the walls of Tilos and 42 BC when the island was conquered by the Romans. The Knights of St. John maintained the island's autonomy and reinforced its defense against the pirates by building or repairing castles. The safety and the economic growth that followed also brought cultural development particularly in religious painting. The Turks attacked Tilos for first time in 1322 and managed to conquer the island in 1522. Tilos was ruled by the Ottomans till 1912 and then by the Italians till 1943, when the Germans conquered the island. In 1948 Tilos joined Greece. The town of Tilos, called Megalo Horio, is the capital of the island.
The churches of Tilos are mainly single-aisled, made of local stone with a large horseshoe-shaped apse and semi-cylindrical roof. They date from the 13th-16th century. Characteristic of the older churches are the embedded columns and the low narrow door, which obliges the visitor to kneel to enter the church. The wall paintings are mainly of a monastic character and must be the work of simple folk artists, except those of the Monastery of Aghios Panteleimon. The screens of the main churches date from the 19th century.
The most interesting religious buildings are:
Tilos - Entrance of Agios Panteleimon ChurchTilos - TaxiarchisChurch of Taxiarchis Archangelou Mihail (Archangel Michael) (Megalo Horio): A gothic church built outside the Kastro (castle) on the ruins of an ancient Temple of Pythian Apollo and Athena Polias. Icons were brought here from the church of the same name in Kastro. Of particular interest are the carved wooden screen, the pulpit and the despotic throne (1824-1826).
Church of Panayia Politissa (Livadia, Misoskali): Surrounded by a cemetery of the 3rd century AD.
Church of Panayia Kamariani (Plaka): Takes its name from the nearby spring.
Tilos - Agios Panteleimon MonasteryAghios Panteleimon Monastery (15 km. from Livadia): Located among trees at 450m above sea level. The sanctuary was built in 1470-1480 by the monk Ionas and renovated in 1703. In ancient times this was the site of the Temple of Poseidon, remains of which can be seen in the Christian church. Decorated with a carved wooden screen (1714), despotic icons and reading desk (18th cent.). The monastery operated as a bank, issuing bank notes (late 19th cent.).
Church of Aghios Nikolaos (Plaka): Noteworthy church dating from 1833 set in natural park.
At Megalo Horio, the capital of the island, the flowers, the gardens, the road paved with stone slates and the central square offer a beautiful picture to the visitors. The village was protected by the Castle till the beginning of 19th century, and then it moved to the slope of the mountain.
At Livadia, a Administration building that was built by the Italians is worth seeing.
Melokouni: Wedding sweet made of finely chopped almonds, in honey and sprinkled with sesame. It is offered following the wedding ceremony with the wish "may the newly-weds' life be just as sweet".
Excellent quality cheese and honey are also produced, and handmade jewels by a traditional jewelry workshop.
Harkadio Cave: The most important hoard of dwarf elephant bones in the world. 15,000 bones from more than 40 dwarf elephants have been found here. The species became extinct 3,500 years ago, owing to the eruption of the volcanoes of Santorini and Nisyros, and the volcanic dust assisted the process of fossilization.
Knights' Castle from the Knights' rule period (north of Megalo Horio): Triangular in shape and built on Hellenistic acropolis. The interior has ancient and mediaeval remains, cisterns and the Taxiarchon Church (14th-15th cent.), built on the site of an ancient temple. Accessible by path and offering a magical view.
Kastelo (close to Livadia): Rocky elevation with ruins of Saint Anna's church (15th century).
Agriosykias Castle (15th cent. - Livadia): With remains of church.
Other castles: Palaiokastro, Lambrou or Stavrou (Mikro Horio), Ag. Stephanou or Roukkouni (Livadia) and Misaria (1366 -1500) with a Byzantine settlement and several chapels.
The harbour of Aghios Antonios has fragments of ceramic ware (5th cent. BC).
Sections of the ancient wall (Megalo Horio): north of Taxiarchis Church, dating from Hellenistic period.
Finds from the Μinoan (Megalo Horio, Lakkia) and Μycenean periods (Livadeia, Kastelos).
Cemetery (Megalo Horio): Built on site of early Christian basilica with many Hellenistic tomb reliefs. There are also Hellenistic shrines and archritectural elements of the basilica Agios Constantinos church.
Castle - look-out post (Mikro Horio).
Tou Despoti to Nero (The Despot's Water) (Gera): Spring and settlement mentioned in documents and official papers of the 15th century.
Tilos - Mikro HorioMikro Horio: Abandoned village, organized as a settlement by the Knights (15th cent.) with beautifully laid out streets and panoramic view. In the 1930s there were 750 inhabitants, but it is now a ghost village. The only renovated buildings are the main church and the cemetery church. The village began to be abandoned when the pirate threat receded and Leivadia was founded. The one-room houses have no roofs, doors or windows, since the villagers took them with them when they abandoned their homes.
Exhibition of dwarf elephants (Megalo Horio - ground floor of Town Hall): Pictures and bones of two elephants skeletons, an adult and a young one, as well as photographs of paleontological and archaeological excavations. Among the findings there are three craniums of young elephants from 655 AD.
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