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Kastoria and Lake Orestiada.
Kastoria and Lake Orestiada.
Kastoria is located in Greece
Country Greece
Administrative region West Macedonia
Regional unit Kastoria
 • Municipality 755.0 km2 (291.5 sq mi)
 • Municipal unit 57.3 km2 (22.1 sq mi)
Elevation 700 m (2,300 ft)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Municipality 35,874
 • Municipality density 48/km2 (120/sq mi)
 • Municipal unit 16,958
 • Municipal unit density 300/km2 (770/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 521 00
Area code(s) 24670
Vehicle registration KT
Castoria redirects here. For the medicinal laxative, see Fletcher's Laxative.
Kastoria municipality map.

Kastoria (Greek: Καστοριά (Greek: Kostur Kastoriá ) is a city in northern Greece in the region of West Macedonia. It is the capital of Kastoria regional unit. It is situated on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Orestiada, in a valley surrounded by limestone mountains. The town is known for its many Byzantine churches, Ottoman-era domestic architecture, fur clothing industry, and trout.


  • Name 1
  • Municipality 2
  • History 3
    • Antiquity 3.1
    • Middle Ages 3.2
    • Ottoman Era 3.3
    • Dolcho and Apozari 3.4
    • World War II 3.5
      • Jewish Community 3.5.1
  • Economy 4
  • Landmarks 5
  • Cuisine 6
  • Sports 7
  • Population 8
  • Location 9
  • Notable people 10
  • International relations 11
    • Twin towns — sister cities 11.1
  • Gallery 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Notes 15
  • External links 16


The name "Kastoria" first appears in 550 AD, mentioned by Procopius as follows: "There was a certain city in Thessaly, Diocletianopolis by name, which had been prosperous in ancient times, but with the passage of time and the assaults of the barbarians it had been destroyed, and for a very long time it had been destitute of inhabitants; and a certain lake chances to be close by which was named Castoria. There is an island in the middle of the lake, for the most part surrounded by water;but there remains a single narrow approach to this island through the lake, not more than fifteen feet wide.And a very lofty mountain stands above the island, one half being covered by the lake while the remainder rests upon it." (Procopius "Περί κτισμάτων" /On buildings,book IV,1.3) Although Procopius refers to it as "a city of Thessaly", the description is undoubtedly that of Kastoria, a city on a promontory in a lake.

There are several theories about the origin of the name Kastoria.[2] The dominant of these is that the name derives from the Greek word κάστορας (kástoras, meaning "beaver"). Trade in the animal's fur, sourced from nearby Lake Orestiada, has traditionally been an important element of the city's economy. Other theories propose that the name derives from the Greek word κάστρο (kástro, meaning "castle"; from the Latin word castra) or from the mythical hero Κάστωρ (Kástōr), who may have been honoured in the area. The word is sometimes written with a C, Castoria,[3] especially in older works. From Greek, the name was borrowed into Turkish as Kesriye. The Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian name of the city is Kostur (Cyrillic: Костур). The town features in the Serbian 18th-century epic poem "Marko Kraljević i Mina od Kostura" (i.e. Prince Marko and Minnas of Kastoria).


The municipality Kastoria was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 9 former municipalities, that became municipal units:[4]


The church of St. Stephanos.


Kastoria is believed to have ancient origins. Livy (XXXI, XL) mentions a town near a lake in Orestis, called Celetrum, whose inhabitants surrendered to Sulpitius during the Roman war against Philip V of Macedon (200 BC).[5] The ancient town was possibly located on a hill above the town's current location.

The Roman Emperor Diocletian (ruled 284–305 AD) founded the town of Diocletianopolis in the vicinity. Procopius (De aedificiis, 4.3.1-4) relates that, after Diocletianopolis was destroyed by barbarians, Emperor Justinian relocated it on a promontory projecting into Lake Orestiada, the town's current location, and "gave it an appropriate name", perhaps indicating that he renamed it Justinianopolis.[6] Th. L. Fr. Tafel, in his study on the Via Egnatia (De via militari Romanorum Egnatia, 1832), suggested that Celetrum, Diocletianopolis, and Kastoria are three successive names of the same place.

Middle Ages

The church of Three Saints.
The church of St Nicholas Kasnitzes.

Kastoria itself does not appear, however, until the Byzantine–Bulgarian wars of the late 10th/early 11th century (the mention of Diocletianopolis in Constantine Porphyrogennetos' De Thematibus is anachronistic, drawing from the 6th-century Synecdemus). The town was in Bulgarian hands until 1018, when it was conquered by Basil II.[6]

Kastoria was occupied by the Normans under Bohemond I in 1082/83, but was soon recovered by Alexios I Komnenos.[6] The town had a significant Jewish presence, most notably the 11th-century scholar Tobiah ben Eliezer.[6]

During the 13th and 14th centuries, the town became contested between several powers and changed hands often.[6] The Second Bulgarian Empire held the city under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II,[7] until it was recovered by the Despotate of Epirus. The Nicaean Empire captured it in ca. 1252, but lost it again to Epirus in ca. 1257, only for the Nicaeans to recapture it following the Battle of Pelagonia (1259).[6]

In the early 14th century, Kastoria was part of the domain of John II Doukas, "doux of Great Vlachia and Kastoria". After his death, the town became part of the semi-autonomous domain of Stephen Gabrielopoulos. After the latter's death in 1332/3, the Byzantine emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos took over the town, but in the very next year (1334) it was surrendered briefly to the Serbs by the renegade Syrgiannes Palaiologos.[6] The Serbian ruler Stephen Dushan finally captured Kastoria in 1342/3, taking advantage of the ongoing Byzantine civil war, and made it part of his Serbian Empire. After Dushan's death, Kastoria became seat of Symeon Uroš.[6] The town came later under the Epirote ruler Thomas Preljubović, and finally by the Albanian Muzaka family, until it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1380s.[6]

Ottoman Era

The Ottomans conquered Kastoria around 1385, but it is unclear whether by force or by an agreement with its Albanian rulers.[8] During the Ottoman period Kastoria acquired a sizeable Muslim population and several mosques and tekkes could be found in the city. The city would remain under Ottoman rule (as part of Manastir Vilayet in the late 19th and early 20th century) until the First Balkan War (1912), when Greece took it. The 1913 treaties of London and Bucharest incorporated Kastoria into the Greek state. Following the end of the First World War the bulk of the Muslim element of Kastoria's population was transferred to Mustafapaşa, Turkey during the Greek-Turkish population exchange.

Dolcho and Apozari

During the Ottoman times, Kastoria attracted a multitude of people from across the Balkans and beyond, resulting in a diverse, multi-ethnic community. As a result, the city plan was radically transformed. The different ethnic communities, Turkish, Greek and Jewish, became centred around separate neighbourhoods or ‘quarters’. Two old Greek lakeside quarters, the “Dolcho” and “Apozari” neighbourhoods, are among the best-preserved and last remaining traditional quarters of the city.

These neighbourhoods are characterised by the rich stock of old houses preserved in the shape of autonomous historic buildings, such as the important private mansions or the more humble folk dwellings (‘accessory’ buildings) built between the 17th and 19th centuries. During this time, the processing and exporting of animal furs to Europe created wealth, and city mansions, of particular architectural and decorative value, were built. This interconnected nexus of churches and private houses constitutes a rare example of a Byzantine and post-Byzantine township, and remains inhabited to this day.

The traditional buildings and manor houses of the “Dolcho” and “Apozari” neighbourhoods are threatened by modern development in the city, as well as structural degradation from poor levels of conservation. These sites were included on the 7 Most Endangered list of Europe’s most at-risk monuments and sites in 2014.

World War II

During both World War II and the Greek Civil War, the town was repeatedly fought over and heavily damaged in the process. It was nearly captured by the Communist Democratic Army of Greece in 1948, and the final battles of the civil war took place on the nearby Mount Gramos in 1949.

Jewish Community

In 1940 the Jewish population in Kastoria numbered 900,[9] composed predominantly of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews. Many family names were of Italian origin as a result of emigrations (originally from Spain) via Italy in 17th and 18th centuries.

In late March 1944, under Nazi German occupation during World War II, 763 Kastorian Jews were taken prisoner by Nazi troops and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau,[9] as part of a program of deliberate extermination of Jews during the Holocaust. Kastoria was liberated by the guerrillas of the Greek People's Liberation Army less than 4 months after the Jewish citizens were forced to the concentration camps. By the end of the war in 1945, only 35 of the original population had survived, the vast majority of the community having been killed in concentration camps.[9]


Panorama of the city and the lake.
Panoramic view.

Kastoria is an international centre of fur trade, which dominates the local economy. Indeed, (as mentioned above) the town was possibly named after one of the former staples of the trade – the European beaver (kastóri in Greek), now extinct in the area. Trading in mink fur now predominates and every year an international showcase of fur takes place in the city. Other industries include the sale and distribution of locally grown produce, particularly wheat, apples, wine and fish. Recently a large shopping center has been built in the city of Kastoria. Kastoria has 16 local radio stations,[10] 2 TV stations, 5 daily newspapers and 7 weekly ones.[11] The town's airport is named Aristotelis Airport.


The promenade.

Kastoria is an important religious centre for the Greek Orthodox Church and is the seat of a metropolitan bishop. It originally had 72 Byzantine and medieval churches, of which 54 have survived, including St Athanasius of Mouzaki. Some of these have been restored and provide useful insight into trends in Late Byzantine styles of architecture and fresco painting. The Museum of Byzantine History located on Dexamenis Square houses many examples of Byzantine iconography. The Costume Museum and the Monuments Museum are also located in the city. Kastoria is filled with old manors dating to the Ottoman period, while parts of the old Byzantine walls also stand.


Local specialities include:

  • Giouvetsi
  • Grivadi soup
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Onion Pie
  • Milk Pie (dessert)
  • Saliaroi (dessert)


Kastoria FC is the town's football team. It was established in 1963 when three local sides joined to form one stronger team representing the town. The team's most successful years to date were 1974 when it was promoted to the Greek first division and competed there for a year, and then 1980 when it won the Greek Cup after an impressive 5-2 victory over Iraklis FC in the final. The team are hoping to return to the first division this year as they are currently competing for the second division (Beta Ethniki) title.


Year Town Municipal unit Municipality
1981 20,660 - -
1991 14,775 - -
2001 14,813 16,218 -
2011 13,387 16,958 35,874


Notable people

International relations

Twin towns — sister cities

Kastoria is twinned with:

  • Kiev, Ukraine since 1998.[12]
  • Plovdiv, Bulgaria since 2005.[13]


See also


  • The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2004.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica, 2005.
  • The Penguin Encyclopedia of Places, 1999.
  • Rough Guide to Greece, Mark Ellingham et al., 2000.


  1. ^ "Απογραφή Πληθυσμού - Κατοικιών 2011. ΜΟΝΙΜΟΣ Πληθυσμός" (in Greek). Hellenic Statistical Authority. 
  2. ^ "Καστοριά - Προέλευση Του Ονόματος (Kastoria - origin of the name)" (in Ελληνικά). Δήμος Καστοριάς (City of Kastoria). Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  3. ^ , 2nd ed., 1989, onlineThe Oxford English Dictionary"K".
  4. ^ Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
  5. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907, s.v. Castoria
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gregory, Timothy E.; Wharton, Annabel Jane (1991). "Kastoria". In  
  7. ^ Andreev, J. The Bulgarian Khans and Tsars (Balgarskite hanove i tsare, Българските ханове и царе), Veliko Tarnovo, 1996, p. 200, ISBN 954-427-216-X
  8. ^ Ring, Trudy; Salkin, Robert M.; Boda, Sharon La (1996), International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe, Taylor & Francis, p. 361,  
  9. ^ a b c "The Holocaust in Greece". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  10. ^ Greek radio stations, Kastoria
  11. ^ Makedonia newspaper, article of 2008/06/29 by Dimitra Tsapodimou
  12. ^ "Twinnings" (PDF). Central Union of Municipalities & Communities of Greece. Retrieved 2013-08-25. 
  13. ^ "Plovdiv has yet another sister city". Retrieved 1 March 2015. 

External links

  • Official municipal website (English version under construction)
  • Official website of the Prefecture
  • Informational Portal for Kastoria
  • Kastoria Byzantine Museum
  • Dispilio Lakeside Neolithic Settlement
  • Byzantine Kastoria through its monuments (10th-14th centuries)
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