The islanders who did not have access to sanctuary in the castles or goulacles during enemy raids used to hide in the caves which abound on the island. There are caves at Vothonas (called ‘Our Lady in the Hole’), iMegalo Cborio, the Katefiani chape) at IVrissa, and elsewhere.
The watchtowers were manned by sentinels who kept a sharp watch over their districts and warned ilie people when pirates appeared on the horizon.
The singular topography of Santorini has contributed decisively to the evolution of its special indigenous architecture. Its characteristic architectural style, although belonging generally to the architecture of the Aegean, is notable for many individual features and forms of marked plasticity. This i.s because it has exploited to the full the unusual landscape and possibilities of the place.
The construction materials used by the local craftsman in building are exclusively volcanic in origin. They include black stone, red stone, ash and pozzolana (pumice).
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Houses roofed with barrel or groin vaults and houses dug out of the vertical face of the lava cliffs: these are the principal building types on the island. The dugout structure illustrates the ingenuity of the locals in the search for easy, inexpensive housing. The vaulting is a consequence of the need to economise on wood, which is in very short supply on the island.
Messaria lies 3-5 kilometres south of Fira, in the interior of the island, amidst vineyards and vegetable gardens. Much of Santorini’s wonderful wine is produced around the village. Messaria also has a number of hotels and restaurants to house and feed summer visitors.
Picturesque Vothonas, built up the hillside like an amphitheatre to the east of Messaria, is almost an extension of its neighbour. In this farming village, which has 300 inhabitants, there is a church dedicated to St Anne, with a lovely carved screen whose icons depict scenes from the Old Testament.
South of Vothonas is Exo Gonia, a small village that seems to climb up the mountainside. Worth a visit here is the church of St Charalambos. Built on a hill, Exo Gonia can seen from virtually every corner of the island.