September 17, 2015

The Cave of Saint Sophia in Kythera

In Mylopotamos, above a picturesque bay, is the Cave of Saint Sophia, the largest of the three eponymous caves of Kythera. The other two are located in Kalamos and Agia Pelagia respectively. Indeed, according to local legends these caves joined together.

Already in the 13th century, Kytherians turned the vestibule of the cave into a place for ecclesiastical worship, while foreign tourists who arrived on the island since the 17th century testify in awe as to what caused this dark chasm of the earth. Inside the cave, old engravings with names and dates recall to the current visitor that before them there preceded many others, such as the British traveler in 1810, but also other Kytherians who sought refuge in the cave during the Occupation. The first systematic exploration of the cave in Mylopotamos, like the rest of the island, was done in the 1930's by prestigious speleologists John Petrohilos and his wife Anna.

The total area of ​​the cave is 2200 sq.m., while the visitors area forms a part of the route at a length of 250 m. Four million years of geological history carved this wonderful sculpture of nature. It is not only the stalagmites, which can reach six feet tall, and the small ponds or vivid cedar roots that penetrate the rocks in search of moisture. The main feature that captures the eye of the visitor is the strong colors of the stalagmites: black, red, yellow and white alternated in a spectacular feast, the result of the chemical erosion of rocks. It should also be noted that the fauna of the cave is home to rare endemic species of isopods, the Kythironiscus Paragamiani.

Saint Sophia in Mylopotamos also preservees the oldest cavernous church on the island.

The frescoes with full-length figures of saints in the vestibule of the cave date back to the 13th century. Among the forms depicted are Saint Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Love. The frescoes are kept in excellent condition, thanks to the lack of light, humidity and consistent temperature prevailing permanently in the space.

Immediately after, the visitor encounters the newer church, built in 1875. A little further there is a pit filled with water dripping from the ceiling; this previously served as a font to cure children born with health problems.

The cave of Mylopotamos bears the name of Saint Sophia, although another tradition maintains that the three eponymous caves of the island were originally devoted to God's wisdom.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.