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
Looking from the Temple of Demeter, the southeast horizon is dominated by the oldest of the surviving mediaeval fortresses on Naxos , Apaliros Castle (475 m a.s.l.). (A track leading east from a point 2km south of the Bazaios Tower— just beyond the turn, west, for the Temple of Demeter— passes over a torrent bed, through a settlement and ends: a 45 minute climb southeast from where the main track ends, brings you to the castle.) More than a point of surveillance and defence, this was a refuge to which the local population and their livestock could retreat in times of threat. The enceinte is large (c. 300m x 80m), and the remains of cisterns, houses and churches, suggest that there was a permanent living community here.
There were probably prehistoric fortifications on this site, but the castle itself was begun in the 8th century, as a vital protection against the first Arab raids. It became the main stronghold of Byzantine Naxos . The sea is visible, but the site itself is a sufficiently protected distance from it; it dominated the main areas of agricultural production in the south of the island and was quickly accessible from them. When Marco Sanudo came to Naxos in 1207, he landed to the south of here, burned his ships and took five weeks to capture this stronghold from a group of Genoese freebooters who were holding it. Afterwards he built his own castle in Chora and left this one unaltered, so that it remains in form and design substantially an Early Byzantine fortress. The walls and the fine semi-circular bastion have remained in good condition at the north west corner—the castle’s most vulnerable point. There has survived a remarkable number of vaulted cisterns (more than 30), amongst the ruins of the houses in the interior. Towards the eastern edge are the remains of the 8th century, church of Aghios Giorgios, with two aisles and apses, and a second church added to its south side.
In a remote and beautiful valley, 2km as the crow flies to the east of the castle is the church of Aghios Giorgios at Upper Marathos (M), with 13th century paintings and unusual architectural design. (3.5km south of Bazaios Tower, a track leads east towards the south side of Apaliros Castle, ending after 2km below the southwestern ascent to the castle; a path for a further 3km skirts south, round the hill and climbs the valley eastwards up to Aghios Giorgios. Allow 3 hours, re turn). This is a fine and idiosyncratic church in a wild and dramatic mountain setting. It comprises a main domed aisle (with unusual intersecting vaults creating groin-ribs in the dome), an adjoining barrel-vaulted chapel to the south, and a domed narthex to the west. The church’s late 13th century paintings of considerable accomplishment are preserved, amongst which are figures of patrons.
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.