An unwanted “monument”: an aerial in the middle of the traditional settlement of Chora Amorgos
Nikitas Passaris, αrchaeologist, MA Byzantine Archaeology, University of Athens

Chora of Amorgos is one of the most authentic and traditional village in the Cyclades and it is offended by a huge telephone aerial that has been built without permission from authorities at very little distance from the village and less than a hundred meters only from the school frequented by students from the whole island. This aerial is about 55 meters high and has 14 shortwave aerials belonging to O.T.E. A.E. and 6 transmitters for mobile phone belonging to COSMOTE A.E.

Very serious reasons plead its changing of place. The radiation provoked by this type of aerial is very obviously harmful for the inhabitants of Chora who have in no way accepted its construction. The negative consequences on health have been widely exposed by recent scientific research. A part from that, the whole of the young population of the islands gathers only a few meters away from it, where the kindergarten and primary school of Chora and Amorgos’ high schools have been built. The students, besides the “Big Blue” and the more generally genuine nature of Amorgos, are close to the gigantic aerial which tends to become, day after day, the symbol of the abusive interaction of man on the island’s nature.

Also, the aerial greatly modifies the image of a traditional settlement, which has managed to preserve elements that have disappeared from other settlements with the sudden development that has taken place in all the Cyclades in the last twenty years. Chora of Amorgos has been designated protected settlement under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. In deed, the service of the Ministry responsible for the protection of Chora has given no authorization for the construction of the aerial, and it is precisely the image of this traditional settlement that it ruins, above the Kalogerikos, the open area at the eastern end of the village, where the stone paved path leading to the Byzantine monastery of Panaghia Chozioviotissa begins. The visitor, whether he is coming from Aigiali or from Katapola, has no other choice than to see the aerial, mismatched and dangerous, beside the traditional harmonically built white houses.

Chora is situated roughly in the centre of the island, 6 km away from the main harbour of the island, Katapola. The settlement was built in the middle Byzantine period and its building is linked to the moving of populations from the coastal areas inland, to sites that were as least possible visible from sea, due to fear of pirates. It is during that period that the first centre, Kastro, was formed around the rock at the bottom of which was built the oldest church of Chora, Kiara-Leousa. It has been the chief-settlement of the island since many centuries, and this is where the Venetians settled after the occupation of most Cycladic islands by Marco Sanudo, Duke of the Aegean Sea. They chose to reinforce of the rock in the middle of the settlement by walls and crenels for defensive reasons. Under Venetian rule (1207-1537), the population increased and the settlements extended. During this period were built the central open space, Loza, as called by local people, word of Latin origin, and the central paved street which nowadays crosses the village from one end to the other. Other buildings of that period which are still preserved are Sala tou Gavra, nowadays housing the Archaeological Collection of Amorgos, the Tholos and Kato Lakkos, vaulted water cistern – these two last, presenting serious static problems.

Under Ottoman rule, the settlement extended further and many churches were built, a sign of a certain economic growth. In most of these churches, whose exact building dates are given by inscriptions, are preserved icons of exceptional quality, whereas some of the churches are decorated with frescos. After the Greek Revolution, Amorgos is integrated in the new Greek State. It was in that period that Amorgos’ High School was founded, in June 1829, one the oldest education institutes of the Greek State, on expenses of the Monastery of Chozoviotissa. This monument is also offended by the existence of OTE’s aerial.

All these elements are preserved in Chora of Amorgos thanks to the love and respect of most inhabitants for the History of their land, and to the distance from the bigger cities and Athens. Chora also preserves characteristics of Cycladic architecture, such as the narrow stone paved streets which create a labyrinth in which the main street is called Mesi or Platysteno. The flat-roofed, mainly one or two storey houses tend to complete this traditional character, with their traditionally built roofs with timber and slab-stones, their roofed passages, the Embrostiades, as named in the local speech, that some wish to harm.

Finally, one should also bear in mind the windmill complex at the eastern end of Chora, one of the most characteristic mill sites of the Aegean. OTE’s aerial is as high – if not more – as the traditional landmarks of the windmills and Kastro.
The inhabitants and local authorities of Amorgos demonstrated on Friday 28th March 2008, demanding the removal of the aerial. First of all the pupils of the schools of Amorgos were on the first line in Kalogerikos. The young inhabitants of Amorgos were first to demonstrate for the protection of environment and the preservation of a historical place, such as Chora of Amorgos.