Agios Andreas, Katakolo

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Agios Andreas is a small settlement near the town of Katakolo, in Elis, Greece. It is situated on the site of ancient Pheia, at a bay of particular natural beauty, opposite the islet of Ichthys or Tiganonisi and the island of Zakynthos. Agios Andreas is located 13 kilometers northwest of Pyrgos and just 2 km from the port of Katakolo. It owes its name to an old church, now ruined, dedicated to Andrew the Apostle, who is said to have passed from the place on his journeys. The church was built on the ruins of an ancient temple, which was rebuilt in 1930.[1]


The ancient town of Pheia occupied the site of the modern village of Agios Andreas, most of which today lies submerged in the sea. Dating back to Homeric times, it is mentioned twice by Homer (Iliad, VIII.135, Odyssey, XV.297, 298), Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War (II.25), in Xenophon's Hellenica (3, 2, 30), Strabo's Geographica (VIII.343), as well as the works of Polybius and Pausanias.

Pheia was sunk by an earthquake in the 6th century AD, the same which largely destroyed the city of Patras, and which is credited with the final ruin of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia and probably with the formation of Lake Agoulinitsa (in Epitalio).

In Byzantine times, a fortress, Pontikon or Pontikokastro, was built on the site of the ruined ancient acropolis. Archaeological excavations in the area were undertaken in 1957 by Nikos Gialouris, and the findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. They include ostraca from prehistoric up to Roman times, clay lamps, bowls, cylixes, amphorae, columns, an Archaic-era kouros from Naxos, and Cycladic statues, all testimonies to the site's role as a major port. An extensive Roman-era cemetery was also found on the islet of Ιchthys or Tiganonisi. However, most of the graves were found looted.[2]


Outline of the Pontikokastro/Beauvoir castle

The fortress of Pontikon—Pontikokastro, "castle of Pontikon", is a relatively recent name—is one of the oldest Byzantine castles in Greece. It is located in the northern part of Ichthys Bay, 100 meters from the coast, and is built on the ruins of the acropolis of Pheia, dating from 700 BC.

Different views have been expressed about the name: Pontikon from the ancient Greek word pontos, "sea", because of its view over the Ionian Sea. Others claim it is due to the similarity of the shape of a mouse (pontikos). The most probable view is considered to be that of the folklorist Dinos Psychogios, that the name came from a corruption of the Latin "fonticum", meaning warehouse, because the castle was used as storage for crop wheat and other products.[1]

After the Fourth Crusade, the castle was conquered by the Frankish Crusaders who established the Principality of Achaea in ca. 1205.[3] They called it Beauvoir in French, Belveder in Italian and Bellovidere or Pulchrumvidere in Latin.[4] It originally formed part of the princely domain of Achaea, and along with the fortress and princely mint of Glarentza it was one of the two major sites from which Elis was governed.[5] Beauvoir was granted in 1289 to Hugh, Count of Brienne, in exchange for his half of the Barony of Karytaina, but Hugh soon exchanged it with John Chauderon for lands in Conversano. By 1303, however, it had returned to direct princely control.[6] During Ferdinand of Majorca's attempt to seize the Principality in 1315–16, Beauvoir was captured and held by his forces until after his defeat and death in the Battle of Manolada.[7] Beauvoir ceased to play an important role thereafter, and is scarcely mentioned in the subsequent periods of Ottoman and Venetian rule.[8] In 1391 it was taken over by the Navarrese Company, in 1427 by Constantine Palaiologos, and after that by Thomas Palaiologos. It was burned down by the Turks in 1470.

The castle walls form an elongated rectangle, mostly of Byzantine construction with traces of Frankish interventions. It encloses an area of about 1 acre, 90 meters in length and 55 meters wide. At the northwest corner there is a tower 12 m high and 8 m wide, with seventeen courses of circular and seven courses of rectangular masonry. The first two of the courses clearly date back to ancient Greek times. In the middle of the castle there is an oblong calculated cistern, measuring 5 meters from north to south, divided into two unequal parts by a partition wall, and four pairs of square holes from which the water came out sideways.



  1. ^ a b Κοτσανάς, Κωνσταντίνος (2007-05-16). Τουριστικός Οδηγός Ηλείας (in Greek). Πύργος [GR]. p. 57. ISBN 978-960-89792-1-5. 
  2. ^ Κοτσανάς, Κωνσταντίνος (2007-05-16). Τουριστικός Οδηγός Ηλείας (in Greek). Πύργος [GR]. p. 59. ISBN 978-960-89792-1-5. 
  3. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 66, 663.
  4. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 328–330.
  5. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 87, 104, 330.
  6. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 161, 164, 330.
  7. ^ Bon 1969, pp. 192–193.
  8. ^ Bon 1969, p. 330.