Σπήλαιο της Αντιπάρου

Cave of Antiparos - Andiparos - Cave of Agios Ioánnis - Agia Paraskeví


Useful Information

Map, de Choiseul-Gouffier`s report, Paris 1782. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
The marble grotto in the island of Antiparos, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, 1717. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
Inside the main chamber, de Choiseul-Gouffier's report, Paris 1782. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
Location: 13 km south of Antiparos village, almost at the top of a more than 200 m high mountain.
Regular bus from the harbour in Antiparos once an hour.
(36.990561, 25.059372)
Open: APR to OCT daily 10-16.
[2021]
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children (6-12) EUR 3, Children (0-5) free.
Ticket includes visit to Historical and Folklore Museum of Antiparos.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=89 m, VR=85 m, W=60 m, A=171 m asl, T=15 °C, H=65%. Portal: W=20 m, H=10 m.
Guided tours: L=200 m, VR=70 m, St=411. Audioguide ελληνικά - Greek English Leaflets ελληνικά - Greek English Français - French Italiano - Italian Deutsch - German Svenska - Swedish русский - Russian
Photography: allowed, no flash
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Trevor Shaw (1992): History of Cave Science, pp 14, 142, 178, 180-182, 241, 244, 255, 275, 277
G. Bakalakis (1969): Aus den Grotten in Antiparos und Paros. Archäologischer Anzeiger, p. 125-132. De Gruyter | 1969. doi online
Otto F. A. Meinardus (1980): Die Höhle von Antiparos aus der Sicht der Reisenden des 17. bis 19. Jahrhunderts, Die Hohle, Zeitschrift Für Karst- und Höhlenkunde, Heft 1, 31. Jahrgang, April 1980, AU ISSN 0018-3091. online pdf
M. H . Omont (1892): Relation de la visite du Marquis de Nointel ä la Grotte d'Antiparos Bulletin de geographie historique et descriptive, 4, 1892, 1—33.
Albert Vandal (1900): L'Odyssée d'Un Ambassadeur: Les Voyages Du Marquis de Nointel (1670-1680), Paris 1900.
Stephan Kempe, Christhild Ketz-Kempe, Erika Kempe (2009): Early cave visits by women and the travel accounts of Lady Elisabeth Craven to the Grotto of Antiparos (1786) and Johanna Schopenhauer to Peaks Cavern (1803), Conference: 15th International Congress of SpeleologyAt: Kerrville, Texas, USA, July 19-26,2009, Volume: Proceedings: 1993-1999. researchgate
Address: Cave of Antiparos, Tel: +30-248-61315.
Town Council, Tel: +30-2840-6121.
KEDA, Tel: +30-22840-61640. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

7th cty BC visited by the poet Archilochus of Paros (680–645 BC).
5th cty BC hideout for Macedonian generals.
15th cty cave explored.
1673 Christmas mass held in the cave, for Charles François Ollier, marquis de Nointel, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and numerous companions.
1700 visited by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.
1714 a small chapel of St. John the Theologian is built at the cave entrance, consecrated by Metropolitan Neophytos Mavromatis of Naupaktos and Artis.
1738 The Count of Sandwich visits the cave with thirty companions and admires the beauty of the natural formations.
1767 visit by Baron Friedrich von Riedesel, the priest at the church guides him.
1770-1774 many stalactites cut off during the Russian occupation by crews of Russian ships in the harbour.
1776 visited by Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier (*1752-✝1817).
MAY-1786 Elizabeth Craven (*1750-✝1828) first known woman who visited the cave.
1802 visit by the famous English mineralogist Edward David Clarke.
1806 report of the English scholar and topographer William Martin Leake.
27-SEP-1840 visited by Otto, King of Greece.
1876 visited by King Otto and Queen Olga.
1879 visited by priest and traveller Henry Fanshawe Tozer.
1880 visited by J. Theodore Bent.
1960s first development as a show cave with stairs and ladders.
1995 electric light and new railings of stainless steel.
1996 new road to the cave completed.
2009 cave and surroundings of the cave entrance modernized.

Description

Entrance to the cave of Antiparos in de Choiseul-Gouffier's report, Paris 1782. steel engraving. Public Domain.
Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, 1717. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
Entrance, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, 1717. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
Photograph of the entrance, Frédéric, 1919. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
J.De Myn, T.Salmon, 1770. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.
Svensk Familj-Journal, 1864. Cave of Antiparos, Greece. Public Domain.

On the small island of Antiparos, south west of Paros, an enormous cave descends 70 m into the earth. Even in August travellers will feel damp and chilly as they descend the 400 cement steps into the cave. Famous visitors have carved their names on the walls, including Lord Byron and King Otto, the King of Greece in 1840.

On three occasions the French Ambassador at Constantinople, the Marquis de Nointel, Charles François Ollier, celebrated midnight mass here, using an enormous truncated stalagmite as an altar. At its base is this inscription: celebrated midnight mass here, using an enormous truncated stalagmite as an altar.

HIC IPSE CHRISTUS / EJUS NATALIE DIE MEDIA CELEBRATO / MDCLXXIII
(Here midnight mass was celebrated on Christmas 1673)

Islanders claim that older inscriptions have been destroyed by overwriting by runaways, who had been wrongfully accused of attempting to assassinate Alexander the Great and were hiding in fear of retribution.

Another famous visitor was Joseph Pitton de Tourenefort, Professor of Botany at the Jardin du Roi in France. He visited the cave in August 1700 and described the speleothems as growing like plants or vegetation.

Boats from Paros take passengers directly to the landing stage on the shore below the cave and drivers wait there with donkeys for those who want a ride up the hill of St John to the cave's entrance. Or go to Pounda and take the car ferry across, a 5 minute ride.


Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.

The Σπήλαιο της Αντιπάρου (Cave of Antiparos) is named after the island. It was known since the Neolithic, and it was visited during the Bronze Age, the Classical Greek Antiquity, which is proven by archaeological findings. It was used as a place of worship for the goddess Artemis. The locals tell about inscriptions of visits during antiquity, for example by the poet Archilochus of Paros. However, the scholars are actually unable to even tell when he lived, some say 728–650 BC, Felix Jacoby dated him 680–645 BC, Robin Lane Fox dated him 740–680 BC. Details about his life are forgotten, if they are not written in the fragments of his poems which survived. Our knowledge is at least fragmentary. And the legendary inscription in the cave is long destroyed, if it ever existed.

The next legend is about Macedonian generals, who had been attempting a failed assassination of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC), and were hiding in the cave in fear of retribution. The popular belief is based on an inscription which still exists and says:

EΠΙ ΚΡΙΤΩΝΟΣ ΟΙ∆ΕΗΛΘΟΝ
ΜΕΝΑΝ∆ΡΟΣ ΣΟΜΑΡΧΟΣ ΜΕΝΕΚΡΑΤΗΣ ΑΝΤΙΠΑΡΟΣ ΙΠΠΟΜΕ∆ΩΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΑΣ ΦΙΛΕΑΣ ∆ΙΟ-ΓΕΝΟΣ ΦΙΛΟΚΤΡΑΤΟΣ ΟΝΗΣΙΜΟΣ
Epi Kriton Odeylon
Menander Somarchos Menekratis Antiparos Hippomedon Aristeas Phileas Dio-genos Philoctratos Onesimus

During the magistracy of Krito
Menander, Socharmos, Menekrates, Antipatros, Hippomedon, Aristeas, Phileas, Gorgos, Diogenes, Philokrates, Onesimos
came to this place.

Obviously this is just a list of greek names. The legend insists that they were actually generals and tried to assassinate Alexander the Great. You will not read about this assassination attempt in his biography though. And other older inscriptions which may or may not have existed were destroyed during the 19th century. Modern archaeologists were not able to find them.

But while antiquity used caves as temples, later generations feared them. It was believed that the cave was one of the entrances to the underworld, to Hades. With Christianisation hades became hell. For two millennia the cave was most likely not visited, at least there is no evidence of visits. On the other hand the inhabitants of Antiparos called it Katafygi, a name given to caves which were used as a hideout. Before entering the cave, a shot was fired to drive away the ghosts and goblins.

The French Ambassador at Constantinople, the Marquis de Nointel, Charles François Ollier, is generally thought to be the first explorer of the cave. Visits during antiquity are elusive, mostly because there are no remains and no written documentation. The Marquis was different, he produced a written documentation about the account, a rather lengthy story how he heroically conquered the cave. He romanticised the event and called the cave Gold Grotto, based on an obscure pun on the ancient Greek name of the island of Antiparos. The Marquis and his entourage of 500 people actually visited the cave for three days, equipped with ropes and ladders they made the dangerous descent and explored the cave completely. In his entourage were some clergymen, some merchants, but also inhabitants of the island. A hundred large torches made of yellow wax and 400 oil lamps illuminated the interior of the cave day and night.

On Christmas Eve, at midnight, the Marquis had his Capuchin house chaplains celebrate Holy Mass. Servants stationed at certain intervals from the cave entrance to the innermost part of the cave gave signs with their handkerchiefs, so that in the momnet of the holy consecration 24 stone mortars outside the cave fired firecrackers. Trumpets, hautbois, violins and whistles helped to make the process even more solemn. To commemorate the event the enormous truncated stalagmite they used as an altar, was named Αγία Τραπέζα (Holy Table) and an inscription was placed beneath it.

HIC IPSE CHRISTUS
ADFUIT EJUS NATALIE
DIE MEDIA NOCTE
CELEBRATO
MDCLXXIII

Over here Christ himself was present, when his birthday was celebrated at midnight, 1673

The Marquis spent the three nights in a natural cabinet opposite the altar, 7 to 8 feet long and just as wide. The Capuchin fathers, after a long search, managed to discover a spring that provided sufficient water for the underground inhabitants. The draughtsman and the masons who belonged to the Marquis' retinue were commissioned to cut down the most beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Some of these pieces found their way to the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Coins in Paris. An impression of the event has been preserved in a steel engraving.

Another Latin inscription at the entrance to the cave, recorded in 1771 by Heinrich Leonhard Graf Pasch van Krienen, is no longer legible today. The text read:

HOC ANTRUM EX NATURA MIRACULIS RARISSIMUM UNA CUM COMITATU RECESSIBUS EJUSDEM PROFUNDI ORIBUS ET AB - DITIORIBUS PENETRATIS SUSPICIEBAT ET SATIS SUSPICI NON POSSE EXISTIMABAT CAR. FRAN. OLIER DE NOINTEL IMP. GALLIARUM LEGATUS DIE NAT. CHR. QUO CONSACRATUM FUIT AN. MDCLXXIII
This cave, which is unique among the wonders of nature, was visited by the French Cardinal [or Charles Francois] Oliver of Nointel, ambassador of the French Empire, on the birthday of Christ, on which the cave was consecrated in 1673, together with his companions, after the deeper and more remote parts had been explored, and he believed that it could not be admired enough.

Since this story made the cave well known, it was regularly visited, with increasing numbers of visitor since the 19th century. The number of old engravings, woodcuts and lithographs, which were published, give an idea. The cave was famous all over Europe, at least among educated people, and the only cave known on Antiparos. And it was subject to a multitude of damages. The engravings and graffities for one, the people who took a souvenir by breaking a speleothem. During the Russian occupation of 1770-74, Russian officers cut off many stalactites. Today they can be seen in the Eremitage in St. Petersburg. It was also damaged during German occupation in World War II, German soldiers used it for rifle practice.

In 1700 the cave was visited by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, who was sent to explore the Cyclades by French King Louis XIV. His description shows that he actually hated the visit. He even misunderstood the speleothems with marble, which was criticized by numerous later visitors. For him, the strangest thing on this island was the cave and the underground grotto, note the idiosyncratic distinction.

"The former has an arched vault and is supported by a pillar; several names are engraved in it. Through it one comes to a rough slope and through a dark hole into the grotto. You must have torches with you and then climb into a terrible abyss with the help of a rope. A ladder is also placed at the edge of this abyss, on which one climbs tremblingly over a vertically hewn rock. From time to time you have to lie backwards on a rock and tie yourself to the rope to avoid falling into the most horrible morasses. There were still the remains of the ladder that the Marquis of Nointel used for his descent. But the ladder had become so rotten that our companions had to fetch a new one. After a thousand dangers we finally reach the cave.
One part is very rough, the other quite flat. In various places you can see large, rounded lumps or points like Jupiter's thunderbolts. Lances of amazing length hang from them. On the right and on the left you can see cloths or curtains, which form cabinets of their own, as it were. Below them one notices a large pavilion formed by outgrowths representing the head of a cauliflower. Then pillars of marble rise, like tree trunks, and everything is crystallised white and transparent. All these figures have grown out of the marble, as it were, without there being any water in the place; indeed, much is still growing. To the left in the cave one sees a pyramid called the altar..."

An inscription from 1776 is quite funny, though we do not know know much about the story behind.

Hélène Täscher, incomparable femme, trésor du marquis de Chambert, à Paris 1776
Hélène Täscher, unequalled lady, treasure of the marquis of Chambert, Paris 1776

The cave was visited by Otto, King of Greece, and Queen Amalia, in 1840. While he descendet into the cave, his wife waited in front of the cave. She lost her bracelet set with diamonds, but two years later it was returned to her by a small trader. The lucky finder received a reward of 10,000 drachmas. In 1876 when King Georg and Queen Olga visited the cave, this Queen was braver and actually visited the cave. It is also quite sympathetic that they refrained from graffiti in the cave.

The cave is located on Ai-Yiannis hill, above Soros, at 171 m asl. The old way to visit the cave was by boat from the harbour of Antiparos, to the beach near Soros, below the cave. The boat ride is really pleasant, but the 1.5 hours, almost 200 m, ascend to the cave in the hot summer sun was pretty tiring. It was made by foot or on a donkey, but we are not convinced the donkey ride was actually less tiring.

After many centuries of low key development the cave was finally developed in the mid 1990s- In 1995 the road to the cave was completed, now it was possible to drive there by car or take a bus. There is a public transport bus from the harbour every hour, and there are busses by tour operators from Antiparos to the cave. Be careful, as far as we know, the fee of the tour operators does not include the entrance fee to the cave. One year later electric light was installed. Now the cave actually was a modern show cave. Still the descent and later ascent of 411 steps is rather strenuous, and it is recommended to take a bottle of water with you.

The cave and its surroundings were renovated in 2009. A new 411-step concrete staircase with a protective railing, which is spacious and safe, was built. Security cameras and a new LED light system were installed. The ticket to the cave includes a free visit to the Historical and Folklore Museum of Antiparos.

The cave was open to the surface for a very long time, the result of a collapse of the cave ceiling. The cave is entered down the slope of a huge collapse doline with a limestone cliff at the far end. There are two small chapels at the entrance, which are named Agios Ioannis Spiliotis (Ai Yiannis) and Zoodohos Pigi. The first is the reason why the cave is also called Cave of Agios Ioánnis. And it is the reason why the cave is extremely frequented on 7th and 8th of May, the eve of and the day of Ai Yiannis. The locals have a celebration with local food and drinks, and the site ia rather crowded.

At the bottom of the doline is a huge entrance portal which is 20 m wide and 10 m high and quite impressive. It is used as an open air church on certain occasions. The cave is actually a single huge chamber which becomes wider and higher, and goes down all the time. Nevertheless the cave is divided into four sections by the guides, the Antechamber, the Chamber of the Stone Waterfalls, the Chamber of the Cathedral, and finally the Royal Chamber. The Chamber of the Cathedral contains a huge stalagmite, which is said to be 45 million years old, and the most ancient in Europe. The Royal Chamber got its name after the visit by King Otto, the King of Greece, in 1840.