A tour of the Temple of Demeter on Naxos
You’ll need no convincing that Naxos is an island that has everything: beaches, great food, mountain villages and traditions aplenty. Now what if you were told it has a temple which, architecturally, is considered a predecessor of the Parthenon?
The Temple of Demeter, near the inland village of Sangri, is just that. Built in 530-520 BC (almost a full century before the Acropolis’ Parthenon) it is a wonderful example of the use of Naxian marble which (when the temple was complete) would have had a series of outer and inner Ionic columns supporting a roof, as well as all the sculptures and marble votives of an ancient sanctuary.
Inscriptions tell us that Apollo and Demeter (the goddess of harvest, grain and fertility) were worshipped here, along with Demeter’s daughter, Persephone. The temple was partially replaced by a Christian basilica in the 6th-century AD, but Demeter had clearly felt fully taken care by then because Naxos’ fertile plains continue to gift the island its famed agricultural produce.
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A restoration project has partially reconstructed some of the temple, allowing us to imagine the full effect. With the sea view, the aura would have been every bit as impressive as some of Greece’s most famous sanctuaries.
Completing the experience is the Giroulas museum, tucked away below the temple, in which you can find fragments of sculptures and votives as well as a reproduction of the three-winged basilica. It has won international awards for the way it blends in with the surroundings.
Worth a visit in its own right, the temple is also a great addition to a day’s village-hopping in Naxos.
- The archaeological site and museum are open all year round (except national holidays).
- It’s worth avoiding the midday heat summer months.
- Opening hours
Depending on how much detail you want to go in to, it’s possible to tour the archaeological site and visit the museum in 1-2hrs.
- There’s little shade so don’t forget your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and bring a water bottle.
- Wear comfortable footwear.
The village of Sangri combines medieval architecture with whitewashed alleyways typical of the Cyclades islands and has plenty of cafes, tavernas and shops selling local products.
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