In Naxos, churches that were built
during the Byzantine period, between
the 6th and 15th century, were
scatteredin plains, plateaus and
Very often, when we walk the paths of the
island we see small stone made churches;
many of them house wall paintings.
These monuments are emerging through olive
trees or some times you may try to distinguish
them within rocky landscapes. The combination of
monuments and natural wealth results undoubtedly
in a rare beauty that the visitor never forgets.
The numerous churches of Naxos fill in the existing
gap resulting from the scarcity of sources of information
about the island’ s history and the history of the Cyclades
in general, during the Byzantine period. The great number
of churches, the also great number of wall painted churches –
the most wall painted churches from all the Cyclades islands
together – the castles and movable finds (coins, sculptures)
show that Naxos held a very important place among the
islands of south Aegean during the Byzantine period.
The Byzantine churches of Naxos are many and it will take you quite
an few days to visit them all. In the area of Tragea the number
of churches is so great that it was rightly named
as the Mystras of the Cyclades.
The churches are made of stone and they are characterized
by their small size and the simple shape.
The types found on the island are usually ;
simple aisleless domed churches, barrel-vaulted churches,
single or twin, small free-cross domed churches, cross-in-square domed churches, etc. The paintings that decorate the churches are very interesting.
Although they have a provincial character they are characterized by their variety and their quite high artistic level. The abstract decoration of some churches is also very remarkable. The themes of the decoration include geometrical patterns and animals and are linked to the iconomachy period. In this point we should note that during the Venetian rule orthodox churches continued to be built, especially during the second half of the 13th and the first half of the 14th centuries.
You can get a small idea of Byzantine Naxos by visiting the following churches; Church of Panagia Drosiani; situated in Moni, it was built in the middle of the 7th century; it is a triconch domed church. The three contiguous chapels were built during the middle Byzantine period. The wall paintings from various periods are very important.
Church of Panagia Protothroni in Chalki; in the begging it was built as a three-aisled basilica Early Christian church and it was turned later (9th century)in a cross-in-square domed church. Wall paintings of various ages are being preserved.
Church of Aghia Kyriaki in Apeiranthos; the two-aisled church of Aghia Kyriaki with the 9th-century abstract decoration is situated at the end of an old stone-paved path.
Church of Aghios Mamandas; it is situated near Kato Sangri. It is a cross-in-square domed church, with remarkable interior sculptures. It dates back to the second half of the 10th century. The preserved wall paintings are dated back to the 13th century.
Monastery of Christ Fotodotis in Danakos; the nave and aisles was initially a three-aisled basilica with a narthex. In the 16th century its form changed completely, into a four-pillar domed church with a narthex, while it was surrounded by a castle.
Aghios Georgios in Iria; it was constructed in the 11th century with materials that were coming from the archaic temple of Dionysus. It is a cross-in-square domed church.
Naxos Churches Architecture
Naxos holds an important position in the history of Byzantine art because of the large number of temples which are scattered almost across the surface of the island. Religious monuments decorate and create awe with their architecture. Characteristics of the churches, starting from the palaiochristian times, are the Basilicas of the 6th A.C.century and several other types of temples, “kamaroskepeis” (arch-roofed), temples of “mafsoleioy” (mausoleum )type, temples “idiotypoi”, “dikogchoi” (double-aisle), “trikogchoi” (triple-aisle), with dome that illustrate the strong religious culture of Naxos. The materials are “argolithodomi” more of less carefully placed. Another feature of the temples are the arches, which in most of them are semi-circular and rarely rectangular triple-parted. There are also “anapsydoi” in both Byzantine and after Byzantine temples. The cupolas have drums in cylindrical form, in almost all cases, with minor exceptions of eight-parts. Also, sometimes, we can see cupolas with the base being particularly pressed that gives the impression of a square or a rectangle form with rounded corners. There are also saved parts of significant marble temples and frescoes that wee damaged throughout the years.