Andritsaina

Under the shed of the Apollo Epicurius

Once upon a time, according to the myth, there was a shepherd called Andritsos Moumouris, who had come to Peloponnese from Crete.  One day, as he was following a ram that had run away from its flock, he found himself in a spring under a plane tree and there he built an inn.  After Andritsos’ death, his beautiful wife took it over until it became famous as the Adritsaina’s Inn (that’s how they called his wife). When houses started being built around it the whole dwelling was called Andritsaina. And that’s how it has been called ever since 900 A.C. in the Frankish maps of the Peloponnese.

 Walking down the alleys of Andritsaina

Andritsaina, a beautiful, big, stone village, was once a great and rich town with many residents, impressive traditional mansions, workshops, tanneries and a well-known fairground in the entire Peloponnese. Its first economical bloom came during the Frankish rule in the 12th- 13th century, but still remained in its glories till the 18th century.

You will find it at the end of one of the prettiest routes by car in Peloponnese that begins from Karitena, passing by the all-green sides of Lykaion Mountain and crossing the borders of Arcadia- Ilia to end up after 30 kilometers to the most beautiful village of the mountainous Ilia. If you weren’t aware that you are crossing the borders of the two prefectures it would be hard for you to have guessed it: The tile- roofed mansions of Andritsaina and its cobbled streets compose a village that could have easily been located at the mountainous Arcadia.

In Andritsaina sights are included

-The covered in plane trees Central Square with the century-old plane trees.

-The truly marvelous Folklore Museum of Andritsaina that hosts a big collection of objects, such as traditional costumes, tools and the collection of photographs of the Swiss Fred Boissonas, who first depicted the everyday life of the Greek outskirts in the early 20th century.

-The stone- built Trani Vrisi( the Big Spring), built in 1724, which is probably the oldest of Peloponnese (the Ottomans  loved to build public springs, which the Greeks loved to destroy since it reminded them of the Ottomans, that is why most of them no longer exist).

-The Nicolopoulios Library that hosts rare manuscripts of the 16th and 17th century, important documents from the Greek Revolution, rich collections of Greek and foreign books and impressive copies of the frieze of the Apollo Epicurius that were given to the library in 1963 by the British Museum (which holds the originals).

The temple of the Apollo Epicurius

You will have to drive fourteen kilometers south of Andritsaina into a rocky landscape in the middle of nowhere. This place is called Vases, which means small valleys or plateaus that form between rocks. In the heart of this extraordinary place, in an altitude of 1.131 meters, there is a grand temple that looks like no one else: The Apollo Epicurius.

It is the only ancient temple that combines all three architectural styles- the outer columns are Doric, the inner columns are Ionic and between them, right before the sanctuary of the temple, there is a unique Corinthian one. Given the fact that the temple as it is formed today was built in 420 B.C., this is the first Corinthian capital ever found (for those who don’t know, the Corinthian capitals are the ones with flowers on that many centuries later  turned into fashion across the Europe by the Romans).

Apollo Epicurius was the first monument of Greece that UNESCO added in the list of Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1986.  It was then that the temple acquired its famous (but also hated) shelter that covers it till today. It is not really pretty but a temple made of limestone, exposed to extreme winds and the sun of a bare plateau at a thousand meter altitude, definitely needs protection.

The temple of Apollo Epicurius is probably the work of Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon. This information comes only from Pausanias, who as much as he was a valuable source of information about ancient Greece he was neither a historic nor a scientist. He was an enthusiastic traveler who was recording what the locals and the passengers told him without further investigation. So if you thought that Pausanias is for the current journalists what Thoukididis is for the current historic you were probably right.

The most certain is that the temple was built by the ancient Figalians to honor their god who helped them defeat the Spartans. Another version is that it was built to overcome the epidemic of plague in their city during the Peloponnesian war. Ancient Figalia, their city, is 7 kilometers away- its impressive walls are still saved that reach the 4 kilometers in length, as well as a fountain of the early Hellenistic era, from which drinkable water still spouts today, a cemetery and the debris of the temple of Athena and Zeus Sotiros.

Apollo Epicurius temple is one of the few temples oriented from the North to the South- most others are oriented from the East to the West. All these unique “peculiarities” couldn’t have left untouched the lovers of the paranormal phenomenons and of the conspiracy theories who believed that the temple rotates in its axis! Obviously, the theory has been disproved but if you are curious enough and want to have fun, you can find the relative online sources on the internet.

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