KOUSKOUNI/SOTIRAS

Just beneath Profiti Ilia on the hillside, one can visit Kouskouni (“Kouskounas” is called the swelling, usually on the head). There, in fact, one can see a natural swelling, and this is why the locals named the village Kouskouni. In 1995, Kouskouni was called Sotiras. However, in our days, both names are used.

This picturesque, traditional village was firstly mentioned in the famous catalogue of 1618 as “chouschouni”, but one can also find it in other writings and, of course, in the songs of the famous singer from Mani, Nikitas Nifakis. In the latest records, it is estimated that Kouskouni had 264 residents in 1844, while in 1961 only a few dozens. In the 19th century it had more than 300 residents. In our days it is one of the villages of the Municipal Compartment of Areopoli, in the new Municipality of Oitylo in the west side of Mani. The inhabitants are farmers, cattle breeders, apiculturists, while some of them are businessmen and employees in Areopoly.

It is said that the Dean who sang the doxology of the 17th March 1821 and blessed all the Maniot arms in the war against the Ottoman Empire, came from Floutsakos family at Kouskouni. A family tradition says that the cave in the fields of  Chrysikiana is called “Bavaro” because there they threw the dead bodies of the Bavarians in the famous trifles amongst Maniots and Bavarians (around 1834).

The former glory of the village is also depicted at the post Byzantine and contemporary Temples, which are published in the book “Research on Kato Mani” by the great researcher of the Byzantine and post Byzantine Maniatic inheritance and professor at the University of Athens, Nikolaos Drandakis. In the book, he refers extensively to 6 Temples. First of all, he talks about Sotira (Metamorphosi), which is situated in the center of the village. It is a one-room Temple with arches. The year 1717 is written on a stone. It was at that time that the Temple was renovated, according to local tradition, but it was built in 1550, approximately. In the Temple there are also three important icons of the 19th century. Other churches, which are mentioned, are the following: Agios Taxiarchis that has a lot of frescos in the interior part and is considered to have been an old monastery in 1800. Here, there is the Archangel Michael, who is referred to either as the “Charon” or as the “Agios ton Maniaton”.

Agios Vasilis church on the southeast part of the village is a one-room chapel with arches and pictures of saints only on the temple. It is said that it was built during the second settling in Kouskouni, which has been deserted three times up to now.

Panagia Faneromeni is a one-room Temple in the old cemetery in Crysikianika, full of icons.

Finally, he mentions Agios Georgios, a church on top of the village on the northeast side, where the other cemetery of Kouskouni used to be. This church belongs to Skandalis family.

Kouskouni or Sotiras is only one kilometer away from the Areopoli on the way to Gythion on the right side. Nevertheless, one can also go on foot from Areopoli from the old road that passes by the Medical Center and OTE. It is worth visiting Kouskouni to admire the wonderful view –the bay of Oitylo, Taygetos, Areopoli, Diro. Seeing the sunset from Kouskouni is an experience one will never forget.

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