Naxos Island, Greece.
843 00 02
Naxos : area 389 sq.km
resident population 17,357
max. altitude 999m.
Port Authority: T. 22850 22300 & 23939.
Tourist information: Zas Travel (T. 22850 23330, fax 23419)
Naxos Travel Guide
Kinidaros and the Drosiani Church
The road east from Mili climbs up into the area of the quarries which are worked today—an eerie landscape of gigantic cliffs and screes of marble, in which natural col our veins are visible in places. The principal community of the quarries is Kinidaros (16km), overlooking a fertile valley dotted with magnificent oaks. After Kinidaros the road descends to Moni (18.5km). The village takes its name from the *monastery of the Panaghia Drosiani (1), just above a curve in the road, 1km below (Generally kept open 8–1, 4–8). It is one of the most important Byzantine sites in the Cyclades.
This is a church, or rather complex of chapels, whose history goes back to the late 6th or early 7th century. Dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin, it is all that remains of a monastery whose buildings once surrounded it. It is a classic example of chapels or churches ‘agglutinating’ organically in Byzantine architecture, suggesting in this case a funerary purpose. The original core of the church is the decorated tri-conch at the eastern end, which was probably built as a sepulchre church for an important holy person: the tri-conch form, derived from the circular martyrium, was often used for a funerary chapel. It was a persistent belief in early Christianity that the closer you could be buried in physical distance to a holy person’s tomb, the greater the benefit of that per son’s holiness might be on your mortal remains. Hence the construction of the first additional chapel, tucked at an uncomfortable 45 degree angle to the axis of the main church against the northwest corner of the tri-conch. Later two further chapels agglutinated yet further to the west. An aisle was then added, joining them all together in to one body along with the original tri-conch. The westernmost chapel probably came before the middle one which was then haplessly squeezed in between—the ultimate effect of this clustering being that of a group of sheep, head down, pushing towards a water-trough.
Because of their antiquity, the paintings at the Drosiani are of considerable importance. The 6th/7th century scene of the Ascension (a common funerary subject) in the east conch is attended by Apostles whose faces belong to the stylistic world of Late Roman and Early Christian mosaics. The dome is decorated (same period) with an almost unique subject matter: two busts of Christ, one youthful and beard less holding the Gospel, the other holding a scroll as the ‘Law-giver’—one the human, incarnate Jesus; the other, the Eternal Saviour. The inscription between the two (towards the east rim) reads: ‘For the salvation of Andreas and his wife and their children’. There are other inscriptions below on the east wall beside the apse, referring to the dedication of the church. In the north conch, the face of the Virgin ‘Nikopoia’ is compelling in its intensity. She is framed by roundels with SS. Cosmas and Damian, as if from a Late Roman mosaic. Below are the rhythmic gestures and processional costumes of the well-spaced figures in the Deesis. The carved marble templon screen which stands (restored) to waist height is probably also contemporaneous with the building. (Later layers of painting of the 11th to 14th centuries, which were superimposed on the present paintings in the conches have been detached and are currently awaiting a place for exhibition.) Of the tiny funerary chapels on the north side, that to the east is decorated with a Virgin ‘Platytera’; the small ‘throne’ in its apse may probably have been for the display of an icon. The central chapel—the only one to have neither dome nor window—has grave loculi to left and right; the bed-rock obtrudes into the floor.
The exterior silhouette of this cluster of jostling domes, cubic drums and semicircular apses, surmounted by the belfry, is unforgettable: it is humble Byzantine architecture at its most plastic.
Beyond the Drosiani the road descends to Chalki, where it joins the end of the itinerary below.
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.