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Ancient Ialyssos

Ialyssia, the region where it was situated the ancient city of Ialyssos, is in fact all the northern part of the island. Remains of a Minoan settlement have been found close to the village of Trianda, while Mycenaean cemeteries, dated in 1700-1400 b.C., have been detected on the hills of Makria and Moschou Vounara, around the settlement. Thus, the archaeological finds, most of them displayed in the Archaeological Museum of the town of Rhodes, evidence that the area was inhabited as early as in the beginning of the 2nd millennium b.C.

The Doric period of ancient Ialyssos is represented by the finds of the site around the hill called Filerimos, where it was located the acropolis of the ancient city.

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One of the most important monuments of the archaeological site is the temple of Athena Polias. It is an amphiprostyle, tetrastyle or hexastyle temple (with a portico of four or six columns at either end) with a pronaos, nave and opisthodomos. The base of the cult statue is still preserved within the nave. In the interior of the nave, there are column fulcrums of small diameter and walls, which possibly belonged to an interior colonnade, dated to the 3rd or 2nd centuries b.C. Conch-like cuttings on the rock at the west side of the temple may have been used as depositories for ritual purposes or for votive offerings.

The brilliant temple that we see today is the Hellenistic one and dates to the 3rd or 2nd century b.C. Obviously, it had replaced an earlier classic temple; a terra-cotta floor and pottery of the 5 th century b.C. have been found both around the temple and in the depository of the west side, where the pottery and votive offerings found are dated from the 9th to the 5th centuries b.C.

Apart from the cult of Athena Polias (protector of the city), references on inscriptions of the 3rd and 2nd centuries b.C. evidence for the cult of Zeus Polieus.

During the Early Christian times, in the 5th and 6 th centuries A.D., a three-aisled basilica with an atrium was built on the ruins of the ancient temple, which soon after was completed with a cruciform Baptistery. Beside the Baptistery is found the stone gothic church of Panaghia Filerimos, today restored.

During the Byzantine times, in the 10th century A.D., a single-aisled church with a cupola was constructed at the northern aisle of the Early Christian church. After 1204, following the Francs’ domination of the island, a Catholic monastery and church had been established on the site.

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The Doric Fountain-House is another important monument of the site. In fact it is a water supply system. Two tunnels brought water from a spring at the top of the hill to a cistern cut into the rock and closed by a Π -shaped isodomic wall made of porous stone. Spouts in the shape of lion heads led the water to an open tank, closed by six pillars with stone panels between them. From the tank, the water passed to a portico of six Doric columns, which made up the façade of the Fountain –house. The construction is dated to the 4th century b.C. A sacred law with proscriptions was carved on one of the pillars, on purpose to protect the place and assure the normal operation of the fountain-house.

Ruins of Byzantine fortifications, constructed with the material of the ruined temple of Athena, are visible at the eastern side of the hills. One can also see the repairs made to the fortification by the Knights. At the same place we can also see the ruins of the Catholicon of a Byzantine Monastery. It is a cruciform inscribed church of the C type, and dates from the end of the 10th to the beginning of the 11th century A.D.

The period of the domination of the Francs and more particularly of the Knights of the Order of St. John is represented on the site by a 14th century church with a vaulted roof and two hexagonal chapels. There is also a medieval monastery, restored during the Italian domination. The monastery was a two storey-building with an interior courtyard (atrium) with arched arcades around it, which led to the monks’ cells situated on the ground floor, and to the Abbot’s quarters which was found on the first floor.

There is also the single cell chapel of Ayios Georgios Chostos, with frescos dated to the 15th century. The church is found at the left of the main entrance, at lower level than the monastery.

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Extensive excavations on the site were carried out during the Italian domination of the island, firstly in 1914 and later on during 1923-1926. The excavations brought to light the earlier phases of the temple of Athena, whereas in the same period it had been excavated and restored the Doric Fountain-House.

The whole site is enclosed with a low stone wall. The entrance is found at the eastern side. After entering the site, the visitor is led, through a big staircase with stone steps and cypress trees at the sides, to the Monastery of Panaghia Filerimos, dedicated to Zoodohos Pighi (Virgin Mary, Source of Life).

Just opposite the entrance of the site and out of it there is a stone paved path with 14 etchings presenting Jesus Christ’s Passions and his way to Calvary; hence its name “the Calvary route”. Apart from the devoutness atmosphere of the site, once on the top of the low hill, where a huge cross overlooks the place, the visitor can have a breathtaking view of the Northeastern part of the island, with the overgrown landscape, full of olive trees, pine trees, cypress trees, oaks and wild bushes. Both the cross and the view are very popular to those liking to take photos, especially in the sunset.

Access to the site is possible by rented or private car and motorbikes.
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