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June 19, 2014

Milos is Consecrated a "Sacred Island" for its Ancient Christian Catacomb

The catacombs of the island are the oldest Christian monuments of Christendom.

June 15, 2014

Famed for its indented coastline, Milos has been declared a "sacred island" as it hosts the unique monument of early Christian catacombs.

"This is an important moment not just for Milos and the Cyclades, but also throughout Greece, as the Catacombs of Milos, this priceless early Christian monument, establishes the island as a world Pilgrimage Centre and enhances the image of our country as an international spiritual brightspot", said Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis among other things, who attended the solemn events held yesterday and today at Milos, together with the presence of the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos for the official proclamation of Milos as a "Sacred Island".

Ancient Christian Catacombs

The catacombs were dug into the volcanic soil and are one of the island's attractions. It was the large Community Cemetery of the early Christians of Milos. It was discovered by looters and became known after the looting in the 1840's. There are three, along with five routes and a burial chamber, forming a labyrinth which is currently 185 meters long. They all had entrances from the outside, but today only one is in operation, that of the second chamber, known as the "Prevyteron", from where it can be visited by the public.

Inside, right and left on the walls, there are the "arcosolia" (dug arches), where in them, and on the floor, the graves can be opened. 126 arcosolia have survived (Petrocheilou, 1972) and they are estimated to have buried a few thousand dead. In each grave was a lamp, but today electric bulbs illuminate the space and create the distinctive atmosphere of those times.

On the graves of persons of distinction, Christian symbols are inscribed or there are inscriptions. These were viewed and studied by Ross (1843) and Soteriou (1927), but over the years most were destroyed.

Such inscriptions can be seen today in the second catacomb in the 6th arcosolium to the right. The inscription says 'Presvyteron', hence its name. In the same catacomb, in the middle, there is a grave dug in the rock in the form of a sarcophagus. It is believed that here was buried one of the first Christian martyrs and even that early Christians used it as a Holy Altar in their Liturgies, as evidenced by the piece of rock, which has been left in place in the middle of the portico B. Since the bases found in all four corners during the investigation of 1928, we assume that over the Altar there was originally a "ciborium".

The Oldest Monument of Christianity

In 2009 the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece proclaimed Milos a sacred island, since the catacombs are the oldest monument of Christianity. It was the first meeting place of the first Christians and their first community cemetery at the end of the second century. The Catacombs of Milos are unique in size in the entire country of Greece and one of the most famous and notable Christian monuments in the world, together with the catacombs of Rome and the Holy Land.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.