Ancient history of Naxos island Castle in Naxos,Churches in Naxos :
KASTRO" - The Venetian Castle in Naxos town:Naxos town is located under the Venetian Castle (Kastro), built by Marco Sanudo after the fourth crusade. He was part of the family of Enrico Dandolo, doge of Venice and participator of the crusade. Venice was the conqueror and Maro Sanudo founded, after occupying, the duchy of the Cyclades with its capital in Naxos (1207). The Kastro was built on dense constructions of the Middle Ages. The "Barozzi" House is located at the southwestern gate of the Kastro and is still in property of the family. The Barozzis were one of the 7 families who founded Venice and were barons on Santorini between 1207-1335. One of the houses of "Della Rokka", the old family "Del la Roche", great dukes of Athens and Attica, has a nice shop "Antico Venetico" selling old dishes, furniture and textiles in the backroom, reminding the rule of the dukes. Actually, it is more or less a museum and has 4 columns of classical temples. Della Rokkas still own one of the eldest pharmacies of the Cyclades (end of 19th century) in Naxos town. The boarding school of the Ursulines is on the way to the Archaeological Museum and it was visited until around 25 years ago. It was a place, where well-to-do families used to send their girls for education and upbringing. The Jesuit Commercial School, where Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Alexis Zorbas) studied houses the Archaeological Museum today. The museum shows founds of the roman, the classical and lots of things of the archaic period of Naxos (5. - 6. century B.C.) - not to forget the idols of the Cyclades. The Catholic Cathedral of Naxos, the diocese and a very old building in the opposite, which must have been a retreat place for the Kastro and now used as a water depot for Naxos town, are closed. The old town was built about 3500 years ago but unfortunately there is no remnant of this period left -not even relicts of the osmanic period. The Bourgos invites with its nice little places, arches, little shops, restaurants and taverns for an exciting walk.
"PORTARA" - The Gate of the Apollo Temple - Naxos Town:Everywhere you go you see the Portara… Close to Naxos port, on the tiny island of Palatia (Dia), the remains of a marble gate "Portara" can be found. It was built during the 6th century B. C. (530 - 540 B. C.) under the rule of the tyrant Lygdamis and was meant to be a marble temple worshiping the god Apollon. The gate is around 6m high and about 3,5m wide and was built with 4 separate columns. Now there are just 3 columns left. Some of the temple's stones were used as ordinary building materials for the Kastro. It is believed that this temple should have been dedicated to the god Apollo because the Portara is located to the west where Delos is, the island of Apollon.Apollon, sun of Zeus and Leto, was the god protecting music and poets and was worshiped especially by young men because of his beauty and perfection. The temple was left unfinished after the dictator abdicated. He was the only dictator ever on Naxos. Later, in the Middle Ages, when it was a habit building churches in the old temples' area, a Christian church was temporarily erected behind the Portara. Nowadays it is a popular place with foreign people getting married.
The ancient town of Naxos: was located at the same place. Mythology says that once Ariadne (daughter of King Minos of Crete) while sleeping was left by Theseus in Naxos. Theseus (son of King Aegeas of Athens) was the one who fought against Minotaurus, son of Minos' wife Pasiphai.
Minotaurus was half man, half bull. King Minos built a labyrinth where Minotaurus had to live. Every ninth year they used to sacrifice 7 boys and 7 virgin girls to Minotaurus. Theseus wanted to stop this massacre. Ariadne was in love with Theseus and helped him to exit the labyrinth. They left Crete together and were planning to go back to Athens but on their way they stopped in Naxos.
Naxos is the island of god Dionysos, the god of wine and life. According to some version of the story, Theseus left Ariadne because he met Dionysos in his dream while they were sleeping on the little island Dia - where Portara is. Dionysos told Theseus to leave Ariadne in Naxos because she belonged to him. Dionysos and Ariadne got married and had three children in Naxos, as Apollodoros says.
Theseus left Naxos and continued his trip to Athens. Before he faught Minotaurus he had promised his father to hoist the white sail to let him know that he survived. But they were celebrating the victory and so they forgot to hoist the sail. King Aegeas thought his son is dead, jumped from the Cape Sounion into the ocean and the part of the sea got its name, the Aegean Sea. This myth gave Richard Strauss the inspirations for his opera "Ariadne in Naxos".
"GYROULAS TEMPLE" - Sangri:The ancient remains in the rural area of Gyroulas are better known as "Demeter Temple". It was an archaic temple (ca. 530 B. C.) like the Apollon temple "Portara" and was built by the tyrant of Naxos, Lygdamis as well. The temple is a rare example of a marble construction more than 50% of the ancient building material of which is preserved. The hypostyle hall shows that it was also erected for the celebration of the mysteries. The building gives information about early forms of the Ionic and the forerunners of the classic Attic architecture. There exists a well-preserved phase of its Christian period, when it was changed into a church.
CHALKI" - The Old Capital of Naxos:Chalki was an old trade place and its neo-classical houses reveal the reach of its climax. This village is the old capital of Naxos and the heart of the Tragea, the main area for the olive trees and the biggest cultivation of the Cyclades.
The church of Panagia Protothroni in Chalki is architecturally dated in the first half of the 9th century, one of more than 10 Byzantine in this area and one of the oldest churches on Naxos. Here we are taken back to the previous rule of the dukes as soon as we visit the Tower of Barozzi - Frangopoulos - Grazia, which predates the 17th century.
The traditional distillery of the Kitron "Vallindras" is located in the middle of Chalki. Kitron is a kind of lemon liqueur except for the fruit is much bigger, like an orange and it is made from the leaves, keeping much more flavor than the fruit does. The distillery exists since 1896 but they started working around 30 years before they tried to get their official allowance. The equipment is 130 years old and the ingredients of the Kitron haven't changed for 100 years now, without chemical additions.
The olive tree, a sacred tree for Mediterranean people with its branch as a symbol of peace, inspires the work of a German potter. Katherina Bolesch decided to show her creations and opened a workshop "L'olivier · H Elaia" (the olive) near the central square and the distillery of Vallindras. Besides her high-fired stone ware, the shop also offers things made from olive wood, cold pressed olive oil, literature about the olive, soap made from olive oil and handmade candles. The Greek autumn traveler edition (2001) of the National Geographic and several TV channels characterize the work of Katherina as masterpieces. In the western basin of the Tragea is Apano Kastro castle.
"PANAGIA DROSSIANI" - One of the Oldest Churches in Europe:The Early Christian church "Panagia Drossiani" is one of the oldest in Europe and is still in use. The earliest layer of wall paintings (frescos) dates to the end of the 6th and the beginning of the 9th century in the dome. The dome shows Christ Pantocrator. The "double Pantocrator" might show the young and the old Christ or the worldly and the divine Christ.In front of the altar, on the right side, you will find the St. George on a horse, together with a little boy sitting behind him and carrying water. This originates from the end of the 9th century.
"AGIOS MAMAS" - Potamia:Behind the villages of Potamia lies the 9th century church of St. Mamas. It is important because of the architecture of a registered cross and the sculptures. As one of the oldest churches in Naxos, it is believed that it housed the Orthodox cathedral before the Frankish occupation
"LITTLE KOUROS" - Melanes"The little Kouros is located above a luxuriant garden named Kouros Paradise where the garden's owners have opened a nice little coffee place. The popular name for the Kouros was Ellinas (the Greek) and has its origin in 7th century B.C. The statue is around 6,4m long and is missing his left foot and a part of his right leg. It was meant to show god Apollo and a proof of it is the visible long hair. During that period no man was allowed to grow long hair, except Apollo.
"CHIMAROS TOWER" - Kalandos bay"The circular marble tower of Chimarros, with its two adjacent little churches, is another characteristic monument of Naxos. The old building is located half way south from Filoti to Kalandos Bay, standing to the height of 15m and enclosed by a square wall of measuring about 35m. Internally it is not very well preserved but a four floors construction can be assumed from the existing beam holes. Unfortunately the archaeologists haven't been able to find the precise dating and role of this kind of towers yet. It's visible to a big part of the southeastern island and could have been either an observation tower or a refuge during the Hellenistic period. Whatever its function was, Pyrgos Chimarrou got a symbolic meaning and it is celebrated in local folk songs
"MOUNT ZAS CAVE" - Filoti:The best way to reach Mount Zas (=Zeus, Jupiter), the biggest mountain of Naxos (1004m) and the Cyclades, is a footpath close to the church of Agia Marina on the road to Danakos and it takes around two hours. The cave is located at the southwestern side of the mountain and perhaps it was dedicated to god Zeus. There have been found traces of human inhabitation from the Neolithic period, like objects, tools and golden plates. According to tradition the islanders used the cave as a chapel during the Othoman occupation.