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The archaeology of the aniconic churches of Naxos

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Sam Turner



This is the final published version of a book chapter that has been published in its final definitive form by Norwegian Institute at Athens, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The current article investigates the corpus of early medieval Naxian buildings to demonstratetheir significance for architectural, art historical and archaeological studies of the Byzantine Cycladesand the wider Byzantine world. The rich heritage of Byzantine churches has long beenrecognised in the Hellenic world, but as landscape archaeologists we are also concerned to showhow these sacred buildings in a variety of settings and with a broad diachronic range are able toenrich our knowledge of the island’s settlements and landscapes. Such an archaeological approachis able to consider the ‘stratigraphic’ dimension of many of the aniconic decorations, which onNaxos and elsewhere are present in the earliest layers of painted decoration thus helping to situatethis decorative style in the early medieval period, before the end of the 9th century. We review theNaxian evidence and include recent publications of similarly decorated buildings from Greeceand elsewhere. The article briefly reviews the changes in Christian architecture from late antiquityinto the medieval era and considers the historic setting of these monuments and the interpretationsof their aniconic decoration. In particular we draw attention to similarities of such motifsacross Greece and we reject the opinions of some scholars that the aniconic motifs reflect a povertyof imagination and ingenuity. Finally we consider the situations and settings of the selectedchurches, many of which are isolated rural chapels, and in particular in the context of the greatnew fortified settlement at Kastro Apalirou of the 7th and 8th centuries. As a corpus, these Naxianchurches constitute a remarkable resource for future research into Byzantine rural life and beliefs.There is a gazetteer of known buildings with a concordance of key publications.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Crow J, Turner S

Editor(s): J. Crow and D. Hill

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Naxos and the Byzantine Aegean: insular responses to regional change

Year: 2018

Pages: 223-237

Print publication date: 16/07/2018

Online publication date: 23/07/2018

Acceptance date: 01/07/2018

Series Title: Papers and Monographs from the Norwegian Institute at Athens

Publisher: Norwegian Institute at Athens

Place Published: Athens, Greece