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The Cave of Agio Gala

The cave is located at the NW part of the island, about 65 km from the city of Chios. It is basically a part of an ancient underground river bed with a very interesting morphology, which opens up through the hill where the homonymous village is located.

It consists of a group of three caves, which are opened one on top of the other. The first cave from the top is the least known and has been used as a refuge during the middle ages and the younger years. At the entrance of the second cave, a church known as “Panagia Agiogalousena” is built. The village of Agio Gala has been named after this church. It dates back to the 13th-14th century and in it one may admire a wood carved icon screen of 1721. 

It is possible that it has been also used as a monastery. Further down in the cave, there is the chapel of Agia Anna which houses the island’s oldest wall paintings (11th-12th centuries). One may also observe the rock from which a stalactite liquid drips; it is milky white and resembles milk due to its calcareous origin. Locals call it “Agio Gala”, which means holy milk and believe it to have therapeutical powers. The bottom cave, the biggest of all three, has been exploited in a way so that visitors can tour through it. It comprises of a long corridor, about 220 meters long, that forms meanders and large areas with labyrinthine chambers. Galleries, windows, bridges etc are some of its special features. Its naked walls are smooth and filled with sculptures from condensation while in many parts large impressive decoration has developed. The humidity and guttation (dripping) are very intense in the cave while the temperature varies. Many bats have found refuge in the cave.

The archaeological findings in the cave bear witness to the human presence since prehistoric times. The excavations have revealed findings of great archaeological value from the Middle and Early Neolithic period (6000 and 5000 BC), such as ceramic vessels, tools and statuettes which are now kept at the Archaeological Museum of Chios. Remains of earlier ages can also be found. 

Dietary residues such as animal bones, fish and shells are also abundant. The discovery of bones belonging to bears, leopards, wild boars and deer, animals that have long disappeared from the island, is also of great interest.

 

Follow the Cave's legend 

According to the legend, a certain king from the Byzantium exiled his leper daughter to Chios. Arriving on the island, she found refuge in a cave where a woman dressed in black took care of her. Three years later, the regretful king sent a boat to bring his daughter back. The young woman was totally cured, thanks to the water that dripped from the cave. The King then chose a point nearby the village and ordered for a church to be built. But every morning, the builders would find their tools outside the cave. Thus, the church was built at the entrance of the cave and the area was named “Agio Galas”.

The cave is open to the public, always in the company of a guide and following arrangement.

Elizabeth Sathopoulou
Ph.D. in Geology

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