Churches of Naxos
churches of Naxos
Beside an autonomous archaeological museum, Naxos is an open-air museum of Byzantine monuments - monasteries, towers, castles, churches and chapels. Byzantine churches are scattered throughout the island, with the exception of some less populated areas and a significantly higher density in areas of greater intensity, such as in the Tragea and Sagri areas.
It is estimated that from the glorious Byzantine period about 200 churches have survived, most of them (about 120) retaining their original frescoes.
Morphologically, we distinguish two main types of Byzantine churches, the single-storey arched chapel}, scattered throughout the island and common in rural areas, and the large domed basilicas, which are common near the old settlements, like Sagri, Potamia, Chalki and Moni.
The domed basilicas are older, with the more ancient dating back to the 6th century. Their construction is meticulous, the dome-bearing arches are robust and well-made, while the domes usually have relatively high cylindrical drums - however, there are some octagonical or squares very low drums. Internally, most of these basilicas carry the frescoes of their time - intact or worn - and are adorned with fine marble iconostasis and other reliefs.
Finally, churches or chapels with two aisles dedicated to an Orthodox and a Catholic saint are quit common in Naxos island.
Byzantine churches in Chalki
The zone around Chalki is the ideal area for a tour of the Byzantine religious monuments of Naxos. The well-trodden paths (some of which are signposted and integrated into the Route 4 of the local hiking network) meander into the verdant valley and pass beside all the remarkable churches. Most Byzantine monuments have placards or informative plates (Taxiarchis).
The most important byzantine monuments in the area of Chalki are the church of Agia Marina (11th-13th c.), the impressive Basilica of Agios Georgios Diasoritis (10th c.), the church of Agios Antonios and the neighboring twin church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos and Agios Demetrios in Monoitsia (both built in the 13th c.), the ruined church of Agios Isidoros (oldest of all, 6th-7th c.), to the north of the valley, the also very old church of Taxiarchis Rachis in Monoitsia (8th-9th c.) and finally, Panagia Rachidiotissa (12th-14th c.), on the border with the neighboring settlement of Moni.
The district of Chalki is one of the areas with a high concentration of amazing ecclesiastical monuments. The large church of Panagia Protothroni, in the center of the settlement, gives a first glimpse of the grandeur and splendor of the local churches.
A short cobbled path leads to a rural location, just outside the settlement, where stands the elegant church of Agios Georgios Diasoritis, one of the most important Byzantine monuments of Naxos. The church was built in the 11th c. and decorated in the same period with nice frescoes, which were renovated in the 13th c.
A little further up, raised on a natural outcrop, the church of Taxiarchis, which belongs to the neighboring settlement of Monoitsia, dominates the Chalki basin. Taxiarchis was a large three-aisled basilica, from which the two aisles are preserved. From the recently discovered frescoes, the church dated back to the first millennium, that is, it is one of the oldest in Naxos.
Panagia Rachidiotissa is in a nice wooded location, outside the settlements of the area, on a prominent ridge overlooking the old rural roads between Chalki and Moni. To the west of the church, one can spot the ruined Byzantine church of Agios Isidoros.
Panagia Drosiani is one of the oldest churches in Naxos. The church, once the katholikon on an old monastery, has a very peculiar form and consists of the main building and three single-aisled chapels on the north side. The main church bears a triple conical roof with a dome. The building is dated back to the 6th c., based on its frescoes.
Text and photos by T. Adamakopoulos
A guide to Naxos Island
Naxos topoguide is available for Android devices as one of the dozens of available region of Greece via the topoguide Greece application. Naxos island is a member of the Greek Islands group. Get the Naxos guide as an in-app purchase through the app.
Naxos topoguide is also available for iOS (iPhone & iPad) devices via the application Topoguide Greece. Get the Naxos guide as an in-app purchase through the app, found in the Greek Islands group.
Naxos topoguide offers active guidance along the trails and provide an extensive introduction on the geography, the nature and the history of Naxos.