Castles of Greece


Marpissa, Paros, Cyclades,South Aegean

Castle of Kephalos

or Castle of Marpissa  
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Castle of Kephalos
On Kephalos hill, close to Agios Antonios monastery, east of Marpissa, Paros island
Region > Prefecture:   Greek Map
South Aegean
Municipality > Town:
City of Paros
• Marpissa
Elevation ≈ 180 m 
Time of Construction   Origin
endof 13th century  
Castle Type   Condition
Fortified Settlement  
In Ruins

East of the village of Marpissa, on the hill of Kefalos, there are the ruins of a Venetian castle. Above the castle there is the monastery of Agios Antonios (16th century).

Kephalos, similar in layout to other kastra of its period in the Aegean, presents a mirror of the hierarchically stratified late medieval society. The highest portion of the castle was once occupied by the Catholic cathedral church and the lord's residence, with all the necessary structures (e.g. defensive towers and cisterns) that would ensure survival for the occupants of the site. The lower castle consists of two areas defended by an inner and an outer defensive wall.


After arriving in Paros, the Venetians built a castle in Paroikia as their residence and the administrative seat of the island around 1260. The castle of Naousa was constructed in the later 13th or early 14th century. The fortification of the upper castle of Kephalos must have been created at the same period.

The castle of Kefalos already existed as a a fortified site when the Florentine priest visited Paros about 1415-20, mentioning that the castle was located on a steep hill. The existence of the site in the early years of the 15th century is confirmed by the inscription above the doorway of chapel I (Evangelismos or the Annunciation) on Kephalos, which commemorates the names of the founders and 1410 as the date of construction.

It is not easy to suggest a definite date of construction for Kephalos on the basis of historical information, but archaeological evidence suggests that the first phase of the kastro could be placed in the later thirteenth century. Distribution of surface ceramics dated from the thirteenth to middle of the fourteenth century show a remarkably well-defined concentration within the inner defensive walls of Kephalos. The outer fortification wall of the castle must have been constructed during the late fourteenth century under the authority of Nicolo I Sommaripa (ruler from 1462 to 1505), who even moved the administrative seat from the castle of Paroikia to Kephalos.

After the death of Sommaripa and following a long dispute over the ownership of the island involving the Duchy of Naxos, the Venetian government and the family of Vernier (of the husband of the daughter of the last Sommaripa), Bernardo Sagredo became the Baron of the island in 1531.

Sagredo was not destined to rule for long: in 1537 the Ottoman pirate Barbarossa attacked the Aegean islands and Paros. Sagredo was able to resist in Kefalos for several days but finally he surrendered due to gunpowder shortage.

The population of the island (~6000) was slaughtered or enslaved. The castle of Kefalos was destroyed and deserted. It was never inhabited again. The monastery of Agios Antonios was built there in 1580 and began to operate in 1642.

Structure, Fortification & Buildings

As already mentioned, there is an inner and an outer defensive wall of different date, dividing the site into an upper and a lower level.

The upper level encircled by the inner defensive wall has undergone considerable destruction when the monastery was constructed in the later sixteenth century.

Two building phases can be securely identified, predating the construction of the monastic complex of Agios Antonios around 1580.

The inner defensive wall with an average thickness of 1.20 m (running for about 320 m) was constructed during the first building phase and it encircles an area of approximately 6,400 sq.m. It is of rough construction, with its best-preserved height reaching 9,00 m on its NE side. Entrance into the area within the inner defensive wall was through a gate located close to the SE corner of the wall. Part of the inner defensive wall encircles a platform of about 2,300 sq.m. on the highest point of Kephalos; this is the area now occupied by the monastery, but once occupied by the residence of the feudal lord or governor of the island. Building material from the lord's residence was re-used and incorporated in the monastic church and the cells that were later constructed to its south.

The outer defensive wall with an average thickness of 1.50 m (extending for 383 m) seems to have been built during the second building phase and encircles an area of approximately 28,400 m . There are two gates in the outer defensive wall; the south gate was the main one, while there was another one on the west side. It is very possible that the outer defensive wall was constructed during the second half of the 15th century and probably restored in the 1500s by the governor Nicolo Sommaripa (c. 1462-1505), who by then had transferred the administrative seat of the island from Kastro in Paroikia to Kephalos.

The outer fortification wall increased the total area of Kephalos to about 35,000 sq.m. The presence of nine churches (three twin churches and three regular single-aisled ones) with associated domestic structures close to them determined the separation of the site into six areas or 'neighbourhoods', each one focused around a barrel-vaulted chapel. Houses were recorded along the whole extent of the inner and outer defensive walls, while their condition and size varies. An old (most possibly originally Venetian in date) paved path leading to the monastery runs through the entire kastro.

The remains of three water cisterns with their lining were identified in Kephalos. The largest one (27.5 sqm), located within the inner defensive wall to the north of the monastery, possibly formed the basement of a rather large multi-storey tower. The cistern provided water to the occupants of the lord‘s residence, while the tower must have been associated with the lord‘s residence itself or even the Catholic cathedral now lying under the church of Agios Antonios. The interior of the cistern is lined with mortar and survives intact, being now used as a storeroom.

The inner and outer defensive walls were strengthened by towers located at certain corners and built with roughly cut stones lined with mortar. Only the south wall of a tower of the upper wall is still visible surviving to 9 m in height and 5 m in length. This tower probably formed part of the original Venetian lord‘s residence, defending the gate of the palace-area.

Current Condition

The castle has been destroyed. Only a few ruins remain, among which are the remains of several churches and some ruins of the walls.


  • Website of Munisipality of Paros - Αξιοθέατα-Λόφος Του Κεφάλου
  • Athanasios K. Vionis “The Thirteenth-Sixteenth-Century Kastro Kephalos. A contribution to the Archaeological Study of Medieval Paros and the Cyclades”, British School of Athens, Athens 2006
  • Information by Ms. Maria Perantinou

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Road map to Castle of Kephalos

Approach to the monument:
A hike of around half an hour is nedded to the top passing through the remnants of the castle
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  • 1207: Beginning of the Venetian occupation of Paros
  • Late 13th cent.: First fortification of the upper part of Kephalos
  • Late 14th cent.: Paros is ruled by the Sommaripa family
  • Late 15th cent.: Building of the outer walls, formation of the lower level
  • Around 1500: Kephalos becomes the administrative center of Paros
  • 1531: The new Baron is Bernardo Sagredo
  • 1537: Siege and destruction by Barbarossa

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