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Paraportiani church of Mykonos

The Paraportiani church looks like it was carved by hand out of marzipan

One of the most attractive and photographed churches in the Greek islands. the Paraportiani on Mykonos, is a unique blend of five chapels that combine a huge mix of architectural styles.

The site dates back to the 15th century and the name come from 'paraporti' or small door in Greek as it was once located next to one of the wall gates in the medieval stone wall that once encircled the town.

Panaghia (Our Lady) Paraportiani is on two levels with four chapels at ground level and a further one built on top of the original four. It is this fifth chapel, dedicated to Virgin Mary, that lends its name to the whole complex.

Located on the western side of the former Chora castle, its roof leads over the former medieval castle entrance, now sadly demolished, and overlooks the rocky coast of the port of Mykonos.

The various chapels were added during the 16th and 17th centuries in an odd architectural mix that makes the church look more sculpture than architecture. The result has made it one of the most photographed on Mykonos.

The four ground floor chapels are dedicated to Agios Sozontas, Agia Anargyri, Agia Anastasia, and Agios Efstathios and each has its own style with elements of Byzantium and traditional Greek woven into the whole.

The upper-level church is a single aisle cruciform with a dome and with two arches on the northern side. On the eastern side is the bell tower with a small arch, hinting at the architecture of many medieval castles.

The church is notable for an almost complete absence of external decoration and the low, large dome above almost merges with the church roof, lending the whole building an air of solidity. Its organic whitewashed structure make it look like it was carved out of marzipan.

The completed church is now considered a leading example of traditional vernacular Cycladic architecture, painted blue and white and distinguished by its organic, asymmetrical and moulded form topped by a low stepped bell tower.

There are around 800 churches scattered across the island of Mykonos but the church of Paraportiani is by far the best known and, like the windmills that run along the Mykonos Town skyline, an icon of both the Cyclades and the Greek islands in general.