Chora- Castle

The islet of Palaces..

The islet, faces the port and is situated on it an extraordinary and unique - in the whole Aegean monument -  enormous door - "Portara" - which  magnetizes the dekko of the visitor, filling him with questions.

In the 3rd millennium B.C. a settlement existed near the islet and is speculated that "Palaces" was the acropolis/citadel of Cycladic settlement. Today we see the foundations of "ekatompedou" ( 100 feet long) temple that began to be built in 530 B.C. by the tyrant of Naxos Ligdamis, but never was finished. The "Portara" is built from 4 marbles; each one has length more than 6 metres and weights 20 tonnes. For their placement were used a  “winch” and scaffold. The threshold of Gate is higher than the floor of this temple, and this is met only in the temple of Didimaiou (twin) Apollo of Militos. The form of the temple is rectangular with figurations in both sides. The "Portara" "sees" to  Delos, referring to god Apollo and is so synonymous with the temple in Delos island, the temple of Deleon Apollo.

In the 6th century B.C. the "Palaces" was a very good fortress near the city, and there are installed the Erythreans and the “Milisius" in one of their fights against Naxos. One noble woman from Naxos, Polikriti, who was captured, sent a message in her compatriots and thus she saved Naxos. In the 5th or 6th century B.C. was changed into a Christian Royal church. Many marbles were transported and built in the Castle the period of Latin Domination. The destruction was also continued at the Ottoman Domination.

When you find yourself in the islet of Palaces you will remember the words of G. Theotoka: "A boat that fishes between Paros and Naxos interests me more than a new revolution, a new fashion or a new aesthetic in Europe, a new engine in America, a new secretive in Asia. Peacefulness! Peacefulness!". With the islet of Palaces are connected organically  Grotta, Aplomata and Kaminaki.

Grotta (from the Italian Grotta, namely cave).

The beach north of Chora took its name after the caves that exist under the hill of Aplomata. In the area of Grotta was found the Mycenaean city of Naxos, one of the most important in Aegean Sea. The buildings are continuing into the sea. It is speculated that Acropolis of Mycenaean years was on the hill of the Castle. The big cemeteries of the season were at Aplomata ,in east Kamini point.

The Bourgos (from Italian borgo, that declares fortified settlement).

With the conquest of Latin and the establishment of their hegemony, Naxos becomes the capital, Chora, Kato Castle or Mesa Castle, as they named the residence of sovereign, at the time. North and northwest of Castle formed a settlement inhabited by "bourgeois", Latinos and Greeks that is to say residents whose unique employment was not the cultivation of the land: the Bourgos.

Bourgos is delimited by three gates: the “Door of Yiallos (seashore)”, that brought in the transom the blazon of Krispean, “Exobourgo”, where the church of Prophet Elias is and the Gate of Jews, afterwards of which began the neighbourhood of Jews. All streets lead to the Castle. Initially it was not wet by sea. We do not know what time it took the final built-up physiognomy. In 1300, for example, Saint Nikolaos is testified by a golden bull, to be situated in "Yiallos" and not in Bourgo. On the contrary the catholic abbey of Saint Antonios of Anna, coastal, near Grotta, donation of duke Frantceska Krispos to the Knights Hospitallers of Rhodes,  at the 15th century, it is  testified to be located  in Bourgo.

Whenever the physiognomy completed, the aspect we can see even today is consisted by narrow accommodated streets with unexpected dead-ends,  “volta”(arches), skylights, anefanoi(chimneys),  fourousia,balconies and submit the idea that the only think that interested the residents formed this district, were to safeguard themselves and their goods in case of an enemy attack or piratical raid. They created a complex group. By the passing of time, the settlement was formed with churches as centres, which are built by the beginning and the middle of the 16th century, as following the Byzantine model. The "platsa", namely square, where is situated the Virgin Mary of Christ church, was considered as the centre, while in the "Door of Yiallos" were situated shops and deposits and became a place of gathering of the residents. Actually, there was no plan of construction. But this did not have negative consequences: there is a logic prospect at the settlement that allowed each resident to see the sea, hear the sea or breathe freely the perfume of the sea. Today all streets lead also to the sea.

Chora is full of churches. In the Diocese of Orthodox we admire icons from the season of Ottoman domination and a Gospel, which, according to tradition, was donated by Great Ekaterina of Russia. The Diocese was built in the situation of a smaller church, "Zoodohos Pigi" and received the current form in 1780-1787, when Neofytos Lahovaris was Bishop of Paros and Naxos. In the building have been used materials of old temples and ancient buildings. It is said that the one-piece granite columns were transported from the ruins of Delos. Apart from the churches that were mentioned before, in the historical settlement of Bourgos we mark, between the other, Saint Ioannis, Virgin Mary of Hionon (Catholic), Saint Panteleimona, Saint Paraskevi, Taxiarhi, Hrysopolitissa, Saint Sofia e.t.c. The Diocese, the Slaughter-houses (current children's library), and the hotel "Apollo", near the old source, from where the residents took water, the "Fountana" (from the Italian Fontana) delimit the market of the ancient city. The market had four galleries with marble facade in a roughly square roughly provision, with a number of monuments in front of them. In front of the Diocese remains an open archaeological place that has been shaped in "archaeological park". 


The Castle of Naxia.

We mentioned before that by Bourgos all roads led to Castle. This still happens today. The Castle never had contact with the sea: the orientation was the interior of the island. The streets lead us to the gates of Castle. "Paraporti", the southern gate, the northern famous "Trani'(Enormous) Door", and another southeast, that is not currently.

The local tradition recounts that it was built by Markos Sanoudos. A part from the walls of the eminent tower of Sanoudos still exist and in the spots where the walls were ruined (the bigger part), was built the “Faculty of "Ursulines”, later. We do not have any testimony, however, to confirm that this was the ducal palace of Markos Sanoudos. The name "Mesa" declares that there had been installed  the center of hegemony.

The initial building form of Castle is not known, nor the shape at the years of dynasty of Sanoudos. What is certain is that it was built in order to host the colonists-conqueror, and from them the ones who were recognized as nobili-noble that was constituted by other populations, had other habits, political and cultural, other religion and constituted a minority in relation to the orthodox population of the island. We suppose that the current form begins to shape on Krispos, in the middle of the 15th century. Despite the lack or the weakness of our sources to enlighten on what precisely happened and what construction phases the Castle passed until reaching its current form, when we pass under the gates, we pass in another place and time where dominate the calm, the narrow streets, the internal, as a rule, courtyards with flowers and the mansions (palaces was named by the noble) with blazons in the transoms. A vertical engraving in the marble figuration of Trani Door predisposes us to a different world in which we prepare to entry: it is the Venetian cubit. Vendors used it to measure the buckrams that they brought for the sovereigns.

By the (supposed) twelve towers that protected the Castle, only one is saved, the tower of Krispi, which the local narration "wants" to be the palace of the particular dynasty, but, actually, it was built by a  natural (illegitimate) son of Duke Goulielmos B’, afterwards 1453, who had no right in the throne of hegemony. Today it functions as Byzantine Museum, at the wish of  the donors to the State, family P. Glezos and  for this is known and as the tower of Glezos or Aperathitisas, because of  the origin of the family. In the transom of the entry exists an enough curious blazon : a synthesis of Ottoman and Russian elements. This are the diplomas of recognition of services to the two forces of the time, that received one of the owners of tower, Iosif Barozzi, dignitary of Russia -  and his grave is found in the temple of Saint Antonios of Anna in the beach of  Chora.

The narrow up-grate streets lead us at the highest point of the Castle, where the Commercial School is situated, next to Capella Kazatza, the School of Oursoulines, the ruins of the tower that the local narration “wants” it to be the tower of Mark Sanoudos, the Catholic Episcopal Palace and finally the Catholic Diocese.

The Capella Kazatza (= home-church), that the local narration wants it to be the chapel of Mark Sanoudos was built on the 14th century. It is certain that the foundation of Commercial School was supported by the property of Capella Kazatza which increased more by oblations of the believers from the 17th century and afterwards. The Commercial School, which nowadays accommodates the archaeological Museum but also the Historical Files Centre of Naxos, was just the monastery of battalion of Jesuits monks that set in Naxos in the beginning of the 17th century under the influence of French diplomacy and policy in the East. The Jesuits undertook the obligation to establish a school for religious and social education of catholic young persons of Naxos. They acquired a major property on the island and it is considered that they brought oranges in Naxos, in their resort, at Kalamitsia, in Melanon area. From 1628 up to 1773 the school functioned continuously under the direction of Jesuits. From 1782, by actions of the King of France Louis IST, the direction was afterwards transmitted to the monks of the battalion of Saint Lazarus (Lazareans), up to 1887, when they left Naxos. After their departure, in 1891, the operation of school undertook the Salesean monks. They organised the school on modern bases and changed it to Commercial Academy. In this studied Nikos Kazantzakis. The Academy gained huge reputation and survived up to 1927, when finally closed, after three hundred years from the foundation.

The regular function of School Oursoulineans started in 1739. But the efforts to built a school for girls had begun a century earlier by the Jesuit abbot and historian of Naxos Roberto Soze. In 1986, the school were bought by the State for cultural purposes.

The Cathedral See of Catholics begun in the mediaeval times, passed from various building phases and received the final character in the 17th century. The floor is marble, filled with sepulchral steles of the17th and 18th century, with blazons of certain important catholic families that acted in the island from the 16th century and afterwards. The presence of baroque in the central step (17th century) constitutes the frame of a Byzantine icon with dual aspect, the Virgin Mary of Eleousa, in one side and Saint Ioannis of Precursor, in the other side, of the 12th century, more ancient and from the church itself. In other icons, the mixture of Byzantine and Western style reveals the influences of Venetian-Cretan culture from which emanates and El Greco.

The Catholic Archbishop’s Palace: Just behind the Diocese  is found the imposing building of the Archbishop of the Latin Archbishop in Naxos. It is also named Archiepiscopal Chancellery and the notarios (notary) is named Prelaticat Chancellor, during the 16th and 17th century. There had their Episcopal see the Prelaticat Chancellors, there were drawn up the private documents that were reported in the life of residents of the Castle, marriage contracts, wills, etc.

Just behind the Catholic Diocese and next to the Catholic Archbishop’s Palace is situated the only orthodox temple of the Castle, Virgin Mary Theoskepasti. The church is a double-aisle temple . One aisle (right) belongs toVirgin Mary and the other to Saint Anastasia Farmakolytria. This is, probably, the older monument from those that are saved inside the Castle and "bequeathed" to us the "Code of Theoskepasti" and dual aspect portable icons.

Abbey Capuchin: East of Theoeoskepasti, near the Piso Paraporti, is the Abbey Capuchin. It is constituted by the church that is dedicated to San Antonios of Padouas. The temple is one-aisle, with nice icons and the marble floor is embellished by graves of sovereigns with their blazons, as the Koronellean-Kastri and the Lorentanrean-Krispi. Capuchins reached in Naxos at 1628. The Abbey also functioned as school. The "Code of Abbey of Capuchins" that was rescued, constitutes an important testimony for the life and history of Abbey but also for the history,  life and adventures of entire the Castle, in the years of the Ottoman domination

Nio Horio (New Village).

South and Southeast of the Castle is situated the settlement in which poor villagers had set in. We do not know what time exactly it was established. The limits are fixed by the churches Pantanassa, the oldest in Chora, Saint Paraskevi, that was renovated in 1605 as is indicated in the transom of the gate of the temple and by Saint Kiriaki, one of the most been painted and photographed monuments of Naxos. In the years of Ottoman domination it was a monastery, where monks taught Greek children literature and music. In the courtyard of the previously monastery exists a small old church of Virgin Mary Dormition. Next to Nio Choro, in recent years was formed the settlement "prosfigika", by refugees of Asia Minor. Finally, in the entrance of Chora, in the beginning of  the main road leading to the villages, the site, where is situated the temple of Saint Theodosia, is testified by documents of the17th century as "three churches", (Saint Theodosia, Taxiarhis, Saint Sevastianos)and constituted at the time a place of gathering of the residents for all kinds of commercial and financial transactions.

In later years Chora extended too far beyond the High school, piece of work of N. Mitsaki, one of the most important representatives of modern movement in Greece, to the coast of Saint Georgios and also parallel to central street that leads to the villages.
The English historian William Miller wrote that Naxos has always been the pearl of the Aegean. And even that orange groves and lemon groves give to the island the epithet "Flower of East", more suitable to Naxos than to Zante Island. You should bend with love above the flowers in order to feel the unique beauty. You should search in order to discover the magical wherever it exists in Naxos, apart from any narration.

Historical Group Naxos ARSOS - P. FLEA

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