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The churches around the Bazaios Tower
At 12km, the main road turns northeast towards Chalki; by taking the right fork you come to the Bazaios Tower (12.5km), clearly visible ahead at the foot of the mountain. The tower, recently restored, dates from 1671, and functioned, until it was abandoned in the 19th century, as the monastery of the Timios Stavros (‘The Venerable Cross’). Four hundred metres south of the Bazaios Tower a track leads off into the fields and skirts the south side of Mount Prophitis Elias. Shortly after passing two concrete cisterns, by the stream bed to the right (1.2km), is the cave chapel of the Panaghia Spiliotissa beneath an overhang of rock, occupying the site of an anchorite’s hermitage.
The Bazaios Tower is a useful landmark and point of reference for a further selection of important churches in the area. These are:
Above and to the east
*Monastery of the Nativity, Kaloriissa (4)—7th–14th centuries. (Partially hidden, but visible, high up on the west slope of the hill of Prophitis Elias above Bazaios Tower; 30-minute climb. Outer area unlocked.) A cave such as this with a fine panoramic view as far as Paros must have been a place of worship for a long time. The first Christian presence may be of the 4th century: a carved relief of the Nativity of little later than this date (now in the Byzantine Museum in Athens) comes from here. Behind the domed refectory building of the abandoned monastery, which sits on a natural terrace, is a spacious cave out of which has been created the church of the Nativity. Caves—which, since the time of Plato, had signified the benighted status of earthly, human existence—form a marvellous symbolic setting for the Nativity, in which the heavenly Christ takes on earthly humility. The centre of inter est is in the apse and conch of the rupestrine church (now unfortunately closed off by a grille): above the synthronon and to either side of the episcopal throne are two framed panels of the Apostles believed possibly to date from the 7th century, before the Iconoclastic debate. In better condition is the beautiful Virgin and Child Enthroned which is framed by two symmetrical deeply bowing figures—John the Baptist and Isaiah: this resonant image dates from the 10th century. The other painting fragments, mostly of later date, include a dramatic Ascension in a notably individual style. The monastery was furnished with large, vaulted cisterns whose marble well-heads are visible.
To the southwest
Aghios Ioannis Theologos Avlonisas (J) (in the fields south- west of the Bazaios Tower and east of Aghios Nikolaos). The profile of the church, with high dome and pronounced free cross plan, is visible form a distance. There are good paints from the 11th–13th centuries both in the church and in the adjoining chapel of St John the Baptist in the northwest corner.
To the south
Panaghia Arkouliotissa (K) (west of the Chalki–Aghiasos road, 300m south of Bazaios Tower, opposite the track leading to the Spiliotissa). A small church of an unmodified inscribed cross plan, with a handsome, clear-cut profile and high cu pola drum. There are remains of high-quality 11th century paintings, and of the carved marble screen.
*Aghios Ioannis Theologos Adisarou(5)—9th century. (In the area of Lathrina, c. 1km east of the site of the Temple of Demeter, in a field 100m to the east of the Chalki/Aghiasos road, 2.5km south of the Bazaios Tower. Opening to be arranged with Ephorate.) This tiny rural church has been included among the five most important on the island (although opening at the moment still has to be arranged with the Ephorate) for the reason that it is one of the easiest to find of the few churches on the island decorated with aniconic paintings, dating from the period of the Iconoclastic debate. The rough-stone chapel, with a single vaulted aisle and a low central cupola, is of extreme simplicity and the areas of decoration are patchy but of remarkable beauty. In places—especially in the designs of the sanctuary vault—it is tempting to see patterns similar to contemporary Islamic decoration. But the principal influence is a clear and unbroken memory of Roman opus sectile work, best seen in the variety of designs in the conch and apse at the east end. In some small areas even, the colour seems de liberately ‘marbled’. Some of the designs look forward to the floors of the Cosmati. The colours—prepared with simple earth pigments, ferric oxides and a pale azurite—are delicate.
Aghii Giorgios and Nikolaos Lathrinou (L) (100m to the west of the Chalki-Aghiasos road, 2.7km south of Bazaios Tower). This is the site of an Early Christian basilica on which two adjoining chapels, dedicated to the two saints, have been built. Some interesting 13th century painting still remains, al though the very fine Dei«sis has now been removed to Athens (Byzantine Museum). The exterior of the west front includes carved, Early Christian marble elements.
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.