The castle of the Knights of Emporeio

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The picturesque semi-mountainous settlement of Emporeio lies on the northeastern side of Nisyros, 8 km from Mandraki. Built at an altitude of about 330 m, at the edge of the caldera of the volcano, it offers an amazing view of the impressive crater. Its position ensured the control of the fertile valley of Lakki to the southwest and the busy sea routes from the Cyclades to Cnidus in Asia Minor to the north. Ιt was a safe harbour, especially during the years of piracy, as the village remained invisible from the sea.

At the highest point of the settlement, accessible from the main square via an uphill cobblestone path, rises the castle of Emporeio, also known as the castle of Pantoniki (always win), a name that describes the strong resistance of the fortress against enemy invasions. It was built on the site of an older Byzantine fortress, by the Knights of the Order of St. John, who occupied Nisyros during the period 1314-1522. The exact date of its construction remains unknown, but it seems that the erection began shortly after the arrival of the Knights in Nisyros and was completed in the 14th century. However, in 1394, the Italian traveler Nicolo de Martoni mentions the castle of Pantoniki as one of the three in Nisyros, while in 1420, the Florentine monk Cristoforo Buondelmonti confirms its existence by naming it one of the four more fortified settlements of the island.

The settlement of Emporeio was gradually developed around the perimeter of the castle in a way that strengthened the defensive characteristics of the fortified section. The continuous habitation caused interventions in its original plan, which was photographed around 1900 by the Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Gerola. The catastrophic earthquake of 1933 struck Emporeio more than any other area in Nisyros, as it destroyed most of the houses at the top of the settlement. A lot of residents were forced to migrate within and outside of Nisyros. As a result, the village was largely deserted. After the earthquake, the Italian occupying authorities demolished the greatest section of the castle walls that had been severely damaged.

In his two-volume inventory on the Dodecanese, Gerola parallelizes the fortification of the castle of Emporeio which consists of a wall and perimeter buildings, with that of Astypalaia. According to him, the Nisyrian castle had all those features that classify a typical fortified settlement, which consists of a tight series of perimeter buildings. The tall, narrow houses, built in direct contact with one another and the walls, formed the fortified quadrangle. The buildings had a plain exterior without protrusions. They had small openings that probably served as ports. They were covered with flat roofs for the collection of rainwater in cisterns, while the level roof-tops ensured the communication between the buildings and served for the defense of the residents in case of emergency. Just the two entrance gates of the castle essentially interrupted the cohesion of the architectural ensemble.

At the highest point of the castle, near the east gate, lies the original Byzantine church of Taxiarchis Michael. It is celebrated annually on the 8th of November, with a great fair that involves the whole community from all over the island. It belongs to the type of the single-aisled basilica, with a built-in arch housing with a transverse reinforcing sling inside, supported on pilasters. The building has undergone several interventions during its long history. The most recent renovation took place in 1991, making the exterior of the church appear newly built. Inside, however, there are fragments of the Byzantine frescoes, preserved to these days in a mediocre condition.

The successive layers of paint have increased the difficulty in distinguishing the different painting phases of the temple. As a result, the scholars have dated the hagiographies of Taxiarchis in great variations. The oldest phase of the frescoes dates back to the 15th century, while the other layers were added later, gradually.

Since 1951, the castle of Emporeio has been listed as a historical monument by the Ministry of Culture. At the same time, the whole settlement has been classified as a place of special architectural value and is protected by the Ministries of Culture and Environment. Nowadays, most of the castle lies in ruins, many buildings are preserved within its walled perimeter, but only a small number of houses have been restored and repopulated. The church of Taxiarchis Michael can be visited after consulting with the churchwarden concerned.

Emporio, Nisyros, postal code 85303

Means of access:
By car, afterwards on foot

Disabled access:

Opening hours:
Castle: open year round, Church: visit after consulting the church warden

Entry fees:


Access Map

Virtual Tour

Voice Tour

The Castle of the Knights in Emporio
Ιπποτικό Κάστρο Εμποριού

Photo Gallery


Kentris, S.I. 1982, «Εκκλησίες και ξωκλήσια της Νισύρου», Νισυριακά 8, 83-84, αρ. 2., Volonakis, Ι.E. 1984, «Νίσυρος», ΑΔ 39 (1980), Χρονικά, Β΄, 342-344. , Volonakis, Ι.E 1990, «Βυζαντινές και Μεταβυζαντινές τοιχογραφίες της Νισύρου», Νισυριακά 11,. 98-101. , Foropoulos, N.L. 1990, «Η Νίσυρος στο στόχαστρο της πειρατείας», Νισυριακά 11, 129-141., Tsirpanlis, Ζ.Ν., 1990, «Το κτητορικό δικαίωμα των κατοίκων του Άργους στην Ιπποτοκρατούμενη Νίσυρο (1454)», Νισυριακά 11, 19-35. , Tsirpanlis, Ζ.Ν. 1991,.Η Ρόδος και οι Νότιες Σποράδες στα χρόνια των Ιωαννιτών Ιπποτών (14ος-16ος αι.). Ρόδος. , Volonakis, Ι.E. 1993, «Συμβολή στην έρευνα των Χριστιανικών μνημείων της Νισύρου», Νισυριακά 12, 314. , Koutelakis 1993, Ch.M. «Τα Νικιά της Νισύρου (Archive S. Chartofylis 1760-1948)», Νισυριακά 12, 147-192., Volonakis, Ι.E. 2000, «Βυζαντινά και Μεταβυζαντινά Μνημεία της Νισύρου», Νισυριακά 14, 125-126, αρ. 12. , Αntapasis, Α.Ν. 2001, “Από την Ιταλοκρατία στην Ενσωμάτωση”, στο Νίσυρος. Το νησί του Πολυβώτη, Επτά ημέρες – ένθετο Καθημερινής (Αθήνα 22. 7. 2001), 10-12., Economakis, R. 2001. Nisyros. History and Architecture of an Aegean Island. Athens: Melissa. (p. 48), Kollias, E. 2001, “Ιπποτοκρατία – Τουρκοκρατία”, in Νίσυρος. Το νησί του Πολυβώτη, Επτά ημέρες – ένθετο Καθημερινής (Αθήνα 22. 7. 2001), 7-9., Katsioti, Α. 2011, «Νίσυρος. From the early Christian period to modern Times», in Ν. Chr. Stampolidis, G. Tassoulas, M.Filimonos-Tsopotou (eds) Islands in the beaten track… An archaeological journey to the Greed islands of Kastellorizo, Symi, Halki, Tilos and Nisyros, 319-323. Athens., Orsaris, S. 2012, Οι τοιχογραφημένοι ναοί της Νισύρου (αδημοσίευτη διπλωματική εργασία), Θεσσαλονίκη, 67-71., Kentris, S.I. 2013, «Οι Ενοριακοί ναοί της Νισύρου», Νισυριακά 20, 226-228.
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