Ouranoupoli (Greek: Ουρανούπολη, formerly Ouranopolis, en. "City of Heaven") is an ancient city and a modern village in Chalcidice. It was founded by Cassander and his brother Alexarchus in the late 4th century BC. The village is today called Ouranoupoli.
On the top of the Mount Athos peninsula and at a distance of 120km away from the airport of Thessalonica lies Ouranoupolis, the Gate of Mount Athos. Ouranoupolis is a divine landscape, combining mountainous and sea beauties, promising unforgettable holidays, especially for the travelers seeking the relaxation, away from the stress of the town. The village seems to be a serene portrait which welcomes the pilgrims and prepares them for their spiritual journey to Mount Athos. Besides that Ouranoupolis means in Greek, the city of the heaven, the city who drives you up to heaven... Its visitors are welcomed by the Tower of Andronikos, the “alert protector” of the city for centuries, built in 1344 by the monastery Vatopediou as a protection from the pirates. In front of the tower lies the port, the gate of Mount Athos, where either the ferry boats travel to the monasteries or cruise around the peninsula at a distance of 500m from the beach. In Ouranoupolis the visitors apart from the hospitality and the friendly spirit of the residents, have the unique chance to savor fresh fish caught in the Mount Athos Golf in traditional fish taverns, to relax in pleasant cafes or bars drinking cocktails on the beach watching the sunset. During the day the activities give unique opportunities for swimming or fishing at exotic beaches across Ouranoupolis, on the small isles, which can be visited either by small fishing boats or small speedboats. There are ferry boats which daily set off from the harbor for the Mount Athos cruise. Diving, sea sports, cars and motorbikes for rent are being at the disposal of the visitors. Ouranoupolis is surrounded by a wonderful forest which is being offered for walks and exploration, viewing to the village and Mount Athos. Inevitably Ouranoupolis is the last stop for all pilgrims who wish to visit Mount Athos since they have to collect early in the morning the Diamonitirio, a written authorization and the ticket for the ferry boat.
In the region of Ouranoupolis, one kilometre east of the village, and during the work of private property levelling, a Roman grave was revealed. It was found in low elevation in a place called "kokkinohorafo", near the street that leads to the abbey of Zigou near the border of Mount Athos.
At a small distance, further north, there is a water bridge and a post byzantine water gallery, as well as various other manufactures relative with the water feeder of the region. In 1959 further uphill, in a graphic place called "Kokkinara", on private property, Manolis Andronikos a very important archeologist discovered relics and remains of an important hellenistic building and also of ancient objects, such as earthen oil lamps, coins and lead items. The research was most probably on a rather small scale so it was not promoted.
The first discovery although not impressive, adds a new topographic element to the undiscovered region.
This grave is a constructed square-shaped grave orientated parallel to the seashore. A thin layer of stone was on top of it. Similar layers of stone have been found within the region proving the existance of an ancient organized cemetery.
The walls of the grave are built off-handedly with stones and conjunctive matter of yellowish clay, while the natural soil constitutes its flooring. The dead, in supine position, was placed directly in the natural red soil. The only belongings of the dead were a coin placed on his thorax, and an earthen oil lamp next his left leg. Chronologically this grave dates back to the third quarter of the 3rd century A.C.
THE TOWER OF OURANOUPOLIS
The tower is known to have existed already in 1344, but appears to have been older than
this. In May 1379, the "despot" (King) of Thessaloniki, loannis Palaeologos, was hosted at the tower and during his stay there granted it exemption from taxes. It must have suffered considerable damage from the earthquake of 1585 and, probably, received extensive repairs. In August 1858 the tower is reported "empty and uninhabited inside" (presumably after being burned down during the devastation of Chalkidiki in the revolution of 1821), but this same year saw the beginning of extensive repair and reconstruction works that gave it its present form.
Recently, the tower was consolidated and restored by the 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. During the course of this project, the main historical phases of the building were identified as follows:
• The entire lower part of the stone structure, apart from the two upper storeys, belongs to the Byzantine tower. It may be assigned on the basis of its typology and construction to the few known examples of the 11th-12th century.
• The two upper storeys and another one (or at least a battlement level) now lost, date from the Ottoman Domination era, probably after the earthquake of 1585.
• The entire wooden interior of the tower, together with its present roof, belong to the 19th century repair mentioned above, which seems to have been completed in 1862. Later, the external sloping buttress wall was added, probably after the earthquake of 1905. Nowdays, after the recent restoration works, the interior of the tower is preserved with the original constructions of the 19th century.
Against the eastern side of the tower rests the annex building of barbakas (barbican), the fortified enclosure, which seems to have been a side building of the early Ottoman domination era, with later repairs. Today's residence and the storerooms inside barbakas were built in the middle of the 19th century.
To the north-west of the tower stands the building of arsanas (boat-house), built in 1865, along with the now lost jetty. It consists of a half-underground space for the keeping of the boat, the storage mezzanine and the residence of the upper level with its loggia.
The metochion estate owned many other buildings (storehouses, barns, an oil press, tenant lodgings ("kolligospita"), wells, etc), only two of which are preserved, about fifty meters to the south-west of the tower. The installations of the metochion were used for many years as lodgings for the new inhabitants, who built Ouranoupolis in 1923.
Nowdays, the tower estate belongs to the Greek Ministry of Culture.