Agios Nikolaos

  • Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos has been the capital of Lasithi prefecture since 1904. It is situated on the north seaside of Mirabello bay and measures 27 000 residents approximately. On the north of Agios Nikolaos there is a gulf, which in the Venetian period was used as a harbor known as Agios Nikolaos harbor (porto – scoglio di san Nicolo), named after the homonymous chapel that named the town too. The fact that this gulf is the spot best naturally protected after Pseira and Mohlos accounts for the most significant cemeteries of ancient Kamara being in this place. There are fragments of wall painting in the church of Agios Nikolaos, the oldest of which from the time of iconoclasm. The church possibly dates after the great earthquake of the 7th century (672) as a cemeterial church, since it is surrounded by burials of the victims of the period. There was a second wall painting layer in the 14th century, in fragments as well.

The town is built where in the Dorian period Lato to Kamara was, the harbor to Lato Etaira, whose ruins lie in panoramic view 9km approximately to the south of Agios Nikolaos. According to the labels after the 2nd century BC the name Lato completely disappears; for the next thousand years the name shortens to Kamara. Besides, the city guardian is Athina the Kamarian. The town of Agios Nikolaos (Kamara) played an important role in the region in the Greek-Roman and the first Byzantine era, as shown by the excavations, as well as the consequent times.

On the hill southeast to the harbor, there was the Venetian castle of Mirabello, which named the region. Built by the Genovese pirate Pescatore, according to the legend, it will be the core of the medieval town. Very close to the position of the four sided Castel Mirabello (not surviving nowadays, the Prefecture administration building rises instead) the single aisled Byzantine church of Mary, with remarkable wall painting of the second half of the 14th century.

Next to the harbor, Voulismeni Lake, which was joined with the sea through a channel in 1870. It is a conical sub-water cave, 64m deep, a karstic formation from which water springs. The myth has it, Athina would take her bath in the lake; her temple of the city guardian during the Greco-Roman years might have not been far away. The historic center of the city does not survive. However, the typical neoclassical buildings close to the lake channel and the sea front add picturesque elements to the town. Here we have the second largest archaeological museum on Crete, after the one in Heraklion.

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