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Naxos - CENTRAL AND SOUTHWESTERN NAXOS - iii.Chora - Galanado - Sangri - Apaliros - Aghiasos - Aghios Sozon - The archaic temple of Demeter

The Archaic Temple of Demeter
A short distance north and west of Lathrina, the Temple of Demeter at Gyroulas (17.5km) comes into view. The site can equally well be reached directly (15.5km) from Ano Sangri­. The temple has been put immaculately in order in recent times, with substantial elements reconstructed, and a small museum created on the site (open daily except Mon 8.30–3). It stands on an eminence surveying an open fertile valley, framed by the mountains to the east and the distant sea to the south. Visible from all around, it must have been felt by the ancient workers on the land as a reassuring and protecting presence. The importance of the archaeological site lies in what it has revealed about the way in which cult and architecture develop together. Sometimes Greek temple-design is thought of as a rigid and repetitive model: this temple shows how flexible and varied it can be. This has been made particularly clear by the good archaeological display.

Cult on this hill goes back at least to the 8th century bc, when deities of the fertility of the land were propitiated in the open air in the area under, and in front of, the existing temple. The excavations have revealed interconnected shallow cultic pits in this area for the offering of the produce of the land to the deities. Around 530 bc, during the period of the rule of Lygdamis and of the building of the Portara, a temple was erected here which had the plan of a ‘thesmophoreion’, i.e a place of cult of the chthonic divinities of the land and its fertility: this is the Temple of Demeter whose remains are most visible today. It was constructed entirely in marble: even the beams and tiles which comprised the roof were of local stone. This was a courageous innovation, involving newly developed technologies; but it had been attempted before by the Naxiots, most notably in their Oikos in the Sanctuary of Apollo on Delos . The temple was also ground-breaking in other aspects of design. It had a south facing portico or pronaos, with five columns in antis. Two large framed doorways led from this porch into the enclosed interior whose pitched marble roof was supported by a transverse row of columns whose heights varied with the slopes of the roof.
   To the west side of the site a magnificent example of one of the marble beams of the pronaos is preserved. Beams such as this supported the horizontal coffered ceiling which covered the pronaos. The interior of the building, by contrast, had no flat ceiling below its pitched roof. This gave rise to an elating sensation of increased height and space as you passed from the porch to the interior of the temple. The roof-tiles were made in a marble chosen for its translucence, which must have transmitted a beautiful, subdued luminousness into the interior on sunny days.
   With the arrival of Christianity, the temple was converted into a church: this happened in two phases and involved re configuring the building to accommodate the different orien tation required by a Christian place of worship. The portico to the south was filled up between the columns to create a lateral narthex. A doorway was made in the west wall; then in the 6th century an apse was created to the east.
   The small museum below the temple to the west displays the decorative architectural elements and the smaller finds from the site in two rooms, reflecting the two periods of the building’s history—Ancient and Early Christian. These include architectural elements, such as the marble tiles of the ancient temple and the carved templon screen of the church, and a small display of the votive offerings found.


Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


access

Naxos Island, Greece.

By boat:
Naxos has on average two or three connections per day throughout the year to Piraeus, and one or two each day to Rafina; the services all take cars, and the journey time typically varies between 4.25 hours (Hellenic Seaways Highspeed & NEL lines) and 5.5 hours (Blue Star Ferries). Nearly all services stop at Paros en route.
There are daily connections south to Ios and Santorini in the summer, either by ferry or Flying Dolphin: this reduces considerably in the winter to twice weekly.
The Express Skopelitis leaves Naxos at 3 pm every day for the Lesser Cyclades Islands, weather permitting.
By air:
Olympic Air currently runs one daily return flight from Athens to Naxos , with small craft only (c. 30 seats). The airport is 3.5km from Chora.

Naxos Travel Guide

eating

Naxos Island, Greece.

Of the myriad tavernas on the harbour front at Chora, the freshest fish and seafood is to be had at the minuscule, "To Steki tou Valetta", where excellent octopus and wine are served.
Of quite different character—elegant and with some carefully designed dishes—is Elli"s restaurant in the Grotta area of Chora.
For beachside eating, just outside Chora, Paradiso at Aghia Anna has good food, served at tables under trees on the sands.
One of the best of all fish restaurants on the island outside Chora is Michalakos at Moutsouna. For its setting by springs in the village of Ano Potamiá, the taverna Pigi is a joy—very popular with locals on Sundays.
Katsalis, under the plane trees in Filoti, is also to be recommended.
And for making a picnic from the best Naxiot wine and produce, the Tziblakis cheese shop on the main Papavasileiou Street in Chora is still excellent—even if in recent years the shop has become more self-conscious than before.

Naxos Travel Guide

further reading

Naxos Island, Greece.

Theodore Bent, The Cyclades (1885), reissued 2002 by Archaeopress, Oxford in the ‘3rd Guides’ series. For an excellent documentation of Byzantine Naxos , Giorgios Mastoro poulos, Νάξος, το ἄλλο κάλλος/ Naxos : Byzantine Monuments, Athens, 1996, cannot be bettered.

Naxos Travel Guide

lodging

Naxos Island, Greece.

For its size and importance, Naxos is poorly provided with good accommodations, outside the resort hotels.
The Chateau Zevgoli in the heart of the bourgo is the most charming place in Naxos, although its name promises more than it delivers and the rooms are small and over decorated (T. 22850 25201, fax 25200). The owner, Mrs Despina Kitini, also possesses a couple of spacious studio rooms up in the Kastro, which represent a good alternative: she can be found at the useful ‘Naxos Information Center’ which she manages, opposite the main ferry quay.
Karabatsi Studios, at Aghia Anna offer friendly, family hospitality of utter simplicity, at a short distance from the Chora (T. 22850 26440, www. dinaNaxos.com).
Of the resort hotels, Lianos Village at Aghios Prokopios, is comfort able and unpretentious (T. 22850 26366, fax 26362, www.lianosvillage.com).

Naxos Travel Guide

practical info

Naxos Island, Greece.

843 00 02
Naxos : area 389 sq.km
perimeter 133km
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

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