Naxos Architecture

Ypsilis castle. Ypsiloteras monastery.
Naxos island. Cyclades. Greece. Europe.
George Detsis. 06/2008. "Glezos" tower. Kastro. Chora (Naxos).
Naxos island. Cyclades. Greece.
George Detsis. 09/2004.

The urban ensembles of Naxos and the architectural monuments are representative of all times, though the period of Franks is particularly the one that left an indelible mark on the island. Chora of Naxos is not characterized by the Cycladic traits. We can see the defensive nature of the settlement, its construction upon the hill, forming a natural citadel at the highest point, the dense structure, the fortification and then the expansion of the settlement outside the walls. The towers and the formation of the perimeter of the fortifications as result of the adjacent exterior walls of houses are considered the main traits of Naxos castle and constituted the core of a secure citadel, which was mainly inhabited by the Catholic community of the island.

Outside the castle there lies the rest of the city (Bourgo), which consisted of the neighborhoods of Christians, Jewish and Armenian merchants and Cretan immigrants (community Nio Chorio). In this part of the town, as in the castle, the fortification wall was created by the outer walls of the houses of each community. The last part of the medieval Chora was the Agora, the eminently public space with the main merchant street. Naxos settlements were built according to traditional standards, adjusted to the climate and the morphology of the soil, with the use of the available materials. The midland and coastal settlements are creations of the anonymous artist/mason from Naxos. The paved or cobblestone streets are narrow and enclosed by the high outer walls of the houses or by low fences.

– The mansions of Chora. They are mainly built inside, but also outside, the wall. They are considered the oldest urban houses of the Cyclades and their ground plan does not seem to resemble any other type of Cycladic house. They are spacious, urban homes. They usually consist of a ground floor and a floor, where there are the rooms. The salon is large and in the centre. The other rooms and the kitchen are on the right and on the left. The houses inside the castle have a fortress-like character with small openings and thick walls. On the faҫade s of the mansions there are carved marble coats of arms of the family with symbols of power and elaborate lintels.

– Popular houses: They are found in Chora and in the villages of Chora. In their simplest form they are single-roomed, while in their development more complex forms were created by the combination of two or more single-room houses or by the division of a large single-room house or even by the creation of a signle-room house over another. These developed forms of popular houses have additional traits such as the “volto” (an arch connecting or separating two rooms with different functionality) and the wooden staircase connecting the upper to the lower floor and closes with a “glavani” (hatch).

In katoi (ground floor) there is the kitchen with the fireplace that serves as a dining room, the storage room and the toilet. Between these areas there is rarely a living room, where the family gathers most hours of the day. In the upper floor there is a hall surrounded by the bedrooms. The upper floor often extends over the adjacent house or the alley – this was the so-called “stegasto”, a room built over the street and resting on a bow.

The cobblestone streets and the house yards are the main public spaces, which with the help of a flat or arched “stegasto” and common scales bring residents in contact, thus blurring the boundaries between public and private space.

– Towers: In Naxos about 30 towers built after 1600 and the Venetian rule are still preserved. They are residential complexes in the countryside and their difference from the other buildings is in the number of storeys. In regard to their origin and use, they are distinguished in those built by the Venetians to protect theselves from the pirates and impose on the locals, those built by the locals to defend themselves against the conquerors, the towers-monasteries and the Venetian resort.

The first three categories have a defensive character and they are actually towers built in naturally fortified locations. On the contrary, those used as Venetian resort have not a defensive character. They constitute original buildings, where traits of western and Cycladic architecture coexist in harmony. The exterior of the towers has a strict and imposing form. They are built from local stones, coating and whitewash. Openings on the faҫade are small and scarce. The doors and windows are framed by marble carved lintels and doorposts with embossed representations.

– The countryside: The mountainous Naxos provides the most information about the lifestyle of the traditional communities of the island. Apeiranthos (t’ Aperathou) is distinguished by the use of marble and stone as main building materials, following all above architectural patterns of residential units (popular houses, mansions, “stegasto”). At that time, one of the common occupations of local women is weaving, with loom (krevataria) being an integral item in women’s kitchen and their products are particularly famous.

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