Original article and photographs by Christos Kotsonis
English translation by Mary Papoutsy

A Neglected National Monument

The Lighthouse of Kitries Still Scans the Sea, Offering Service, Waiting for Help

Few inhabitants of Mani and Messinia, apart form fishermen, seafarers and some persons who have an inkling, know that very near Kalamata there is a monument—an ever watchful sentinel that continues to break the dense shadow of night, helping the eyes of sea captains pierce the black danger of headland rocks. The lighthouse of Kitries is a structure that belongs to the innovative technical legacy of our country, something which unfortunately hasn't yet emerged as a cultural icon in our national consciousness. And because it isn't a n object of attention and special protection, just as, for example, preserved neoclassical buildings, it hasn't yet piqued the interest of [benevolent] associations, of competent persons, and naturally, of the government. The lighthouse of Kitries continues to stand there prominently atop Cape Kitries, even though wounded by time, offering service to the mariners while "waiting" for help from an owner who no loner exists in the Greek government.

This land-and-sea monument is found south of Kalamata, a distance of 6 nautical miles, behind the bay of Kitries. We know that it was constructed in the year 1892 by the contractor Athanasios Marinos. The building of the lighthouse was erected on the spot where the greenery ends and the rocky cliff of the point begins, about 20 meters above the sea [roughly 60 feet]. It has the dimensions 7 x 11.5 meters [about 21 x 34.5 feet] and a total area of 80 square meters. It boats four ground-level rooms, which were utilized for the residence of the lighthouse keepers and are arranged in two's, on both sides of a chamber running along a central axis, in the middle of which there is an access from the single eastern outer door.

On the left side of the central chamber one finds a cistern which filled with rainwater and protected the indispensable liquid for the residents of the lighthouse. Even today the cistern still contains water. Visitors marvel at its opening which was constructed (art lovers would appreciate this even more) by a single piece of marble.

A kitchen is located in the northeastern room. Almost all the wooden doors and the windows have fallen apart, half rotten. The bathrooms were sheltered on the north in a separate outhouse that has since crumbled.

Some special architectural characteristics stand out among the stone-hewn weighty walls: brown-colored, projecting cornerstones of equal size, just like the foundation stones, offer a contrast to the walls of the lighthouse, as well as to the white marble framing the doors and windows. The square tower, of the same construction as the central building, has a height of 11 meters. One of the most remarkable features of the lighthouse is an astonishing marble spiral staircase composed of wedge-shaped marble steps that form the center of a cylindrical column. The stairs lead to the top of the lighting machinery that has been abandoned today to bats whose droppings have covered the topmost steps. The square tower ends in a metal cage (housing for the light).

Lightning protection for the lighthouse consists of a copper cable that ends at the summit from the middle of the southeastern side of the structure. And although it has moved from its position, it could be destroyed by some vandal who eventually would not confine himself to the destruction of the interior spaces or to the descriptive "calling cards" scrawled on the walls. What the visitor to the lighthouse of Kitries discovers, just as with many other memorable structures of Mani, is its abandonment and obvious destructive activity from the time of the occupation. Apart from the doors and windows which have fallen completely into ruin, a fair number of features of the structure itself have sustained damage. The southeastern wall has cracked and the terrace has split, perhaps even from some seismic shocks. The image which the departing person carries away with him from the lighthouse is disappointing: one of the more significant modern monuments slowly extinguishes, giving a stigma to our country and the conspicuous place in worldwide nautical history that Greece possessed from the beginning. Surrendered to the ruin of time and abandonment. . . .

It is clear that the state doesn't have the disposition to take care of the lighthouse. The most common excuse is that the credit and services of the nation are not sufficient to take care of historical treasures. Apart from religious monuments, which have fallen under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and, usually, comprise objects of concern for the state, for the representatives of the metropolises, and for the faithful benefactors, one proposal that could "fly" is the following: that examples be given of citizens concerned about their historical and monumental inheritance. In the Demos of Avias, groups or teams of citizens will model initiatives of restoration by adopting monuments selected from those that constitute the most significant features of the spirit of our locality, placing a priority upon those facing immediate danger of destruction and ruin. One of these is the lighthouse, the "lantern" as the fishermen are accustomed to call it. A good example is the case of the island Ios where, with the initiative of the local council, the restored lighthouse is open to the public. A similar initiative was also expressed by the Demos of Gytheio with regard to the lighthouse of Kranae, which will be repaired with the collaboration of E.O.T. to house the Nautical Museum of Mani.

The History of the White Light

The lighthouse has an assigned index number in the Greek Lighthouse [governmental] Code: A.E.F 2260-E-4032. It began operation on the first of June 1892 with the [law] number[ed] 27/1-5-1892 in the encyclical of announcements for the Maritime Ministry. It adopted the peristrophic system at that time, called "Sautter Lemonnier," with a clock mechanism for rotation with counterweights and petroleum as a source of energy. It transmitted a steady beam of one white burst of 30 seconds' duration and of sufficient luminosity for 10 nautical miles. In the year 1952 the light head "Chance" 800 m/m was installed, with a white light and range of 6 nautical miles. From 1999 on, collectors or "hive" lights, have been used that convert sun energy into electrical, stored within batteries; the body of the light works in two flashes of 12 seconds' duration and a range of 7 nautical miles.

Since the time of the World War II, the lighthouse hasn't worked. A few days before the occupying German armies departed from Kalamata on August 6, 1944, they tried—in vain as it has been demonstrated—to bring the lighthouse down by setting up canons opposite it from the batteries of Kalamata. We should stress that the greatest damage to the Greek Lighthouse Network flared up during the time of the war and most certainly by the departure of German troops from Greece. In 1940 there were 206 stone lighthouses. After the end of the war only 19 remained working.

The Lighthouse Keepers of Kitries

The names and family villages of the lighthouse keepers who served at Kitries and are located in the archives of the Lighthouse Service are as follows:

1. Mihail Panagiotaros, from Oitylo
2. Elias Meleas, from Lefktro
3. Petros Dikeakos [Dikaiakos] or Koukouras, from Oitylo
4. Elias Smailis-Mihalopoulos, from Oitylo
5. Nikolas Garides, from Dolous
6. Andreas Gaitanaros, from Kitries
7. Nikolas Konstantakos, from the Demos Messis.
8. Antonios Fidopiastis [Pheidopiastes], from Oitylo
9. Dimitrios Petrogkonas, from Langkada [Lagkada]
10. Panagiotis Garides, from Kitries
11. Georgios Xarhakos, from Petalidi.
12. Theodoros Paraskevakos, from Methoni.
13. Ioannis Koumoutsakis, from Methoni
14. Pangiotis Koliakos, from Gytheio
15. Panagiotis Gkiouleas, from Prasteio
16. Panagiotis Georgaleas, from Selinitisa
17. Georgios Alafakis [Alaphakes], from Vatheia
18. Dimitrios Garides, from Dolous
19. Panagiotis Lagoudis, from Kitries
20. Georgios Garides, from Dolous
21. Vasileios Haralampeas [Charalambeas/Haralabeas], from Kardamyli
22. Grigorios Kamarineas, from Dolous
23. Ioannis Derkas, from Selinitsa
24. Mihail Lagoudakos, from Vatheia
25. Ioannis Kotsonouris, from Dolous
26. Dimitrios Margaritarakis, from Koroni
27. Lysander [Lisandros] Filippides [Philippides], from Exochori
28. Georgios Lagoudakos, from Kardamyli

Christos Kotsonis is a journalist and editor-in-chief for the daily newspaper Simea of Messenia.He is the author of the original article in Greek and the accompanying photographs which appeared in the May-June 2003 issue of Mani magazine (pages 4-5). Permission granted by Mani representatives for HCS to reprint photos and to post article.

Mary Papoutsy is a Classicist and former educator at the secondary and collegiate levels. Mrs. Papoutsy lectures on the Classics and Hellenic genealogy, having established the Hellenic Historical and Genealogical Association in 2000. She and her husband, Christos Papoutsy, created the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Endowed Chair in Business Ethics at Southern New Hampshire University. They also founded and are the publishers of Hellenic Communication Service. For more information about Mrs. Papoutsy, see the About Us section of the HCS Home Page at http://www.HellenicComServe.com/aboutus.html.


Panmessenian [Greek language newspaper based in region of Messenia], August-
September 1995.

Saita, Yianni, "The Three Stone Lighthouses," in Kathimerini [Greek language national
daily newspaper based in Athens], 13 August 1995.

Lykoudi, Stylianos E. Historian of the Lighthouses of the Greek Seas. Athens: [publisher
not listed] 1917-18.

Georgouleas, Georgios Styl. [article title not listed]. Ithomi 45 (August 2001): [page not

(Posted July 2004)

HCS Readers who have enjoyed this article may wish to browse others in our archives in the section titled "Travel in Greece" at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archivetravelingreece.html.

2000 © Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.