Behind the district in Naxos Town known as Kastro (the castle) lies a fascinating medieval settlement. Its cobbled streets and houses meld Venetian and Catholic elements into classic Cycladic architecture.
One of the access gates to Kastro is the Trani Porta, which displays a coat of arms of the Crispi family that once owned this tower.
The Tower of Glezos
A visit to Naxos is not complete without a walk through the old Venetian castle of Chora, better known as Kastro. This medieval fortified town, with its narrow backstreets and vaulted alleyways, is an enthralling experience that takes you to another era of Greek history.
The Glezos tower, which is also called the Crispi tower, is a border tower that protects Kastro from outside threats. It stands near the northwestern gate of the castle and extends in parts along its northern and western sides. It has four floors and is the only one of the estimated 12 towers in the castle that has a round shape.
The imposing tower is the most well-preserved of all the castle walls, and its entry features a coat-of-arms that belongs to the Crispi dynasty. This dynasty took over the title of Duke of Naxos from Markos Sanoudos in the 14th century.
The Glezos tower is the best example of how the fortifications were used in the past for a variety of purposes. They played a key role in local politics, education, and religion, as well as providing protection from invaders. After the Seventh Ottoman-Venetian War ended in 1718, many of the towers were adapted by the victorious Turks or left to fall into disrepair. Others were used as monasteries or summer residencies for wealthy families.
The Tower of Kourounochori
The tower of Kourounochori is a three-storey, Venetian building that was built during the time that the Ursulines nuns were on Naxos. It’s an impressive tower that exudes nobility. It also houses a small museum and is the oldest tower on the island.
The village of Kourounochori is one of the most picturesque villages on the island of Naxos. It’s a charming village with narrow streets, stone-paved alleys and beautiful houses of traditional island architecture. It’s an ideal place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main town of Naxos.
It’s also home to the most famous monastery on the island, Moni, which is renowned for its textiles and wood carving workshop. The monastery is home to many scholars in the fields of science, art and politics (Petros Protopapadakis, Dialehti Zevgoli-Glezos & Manolis Glezos).
While visiting Kourounochori, make sure to take some time to stroll around the village church. There are some stunning carved inscriptions in the façade of the church. These inscriptions are a reminder of the rich history of this charming village. You’ll also find a beautiful Venetian tower that was once a residence. It was originally built for the wealthy noble family of the Kokkos. It was later owned by the Sommaripa family. The tower retains some of the defensive elements, including slots or four “zematistres” that were used to throw burning oil on invaders.
The Tower of Galanado
Behind the busy district of Naxos Town and the port esplanade a labyrinth of narrow backstreets and vaulted alleys leads to the old castle, or kastro, where you can discover the medieval world of feudal landowners that once ruled the island. The Glezos tower (or ‘Sfortsa-Kastri’ as it is also known) was built under the supervision of Marco Sanudo and his successors who established Frank rule in the Cyclades in 1207.
Although essentially a tower, this one has some special features that mark it out from others: there are slots in the walls which could have been used by soldiers to shoot down attacking attackers; holes in the ceiling so they can drop cannon balls from above; and a number of small windows high up on the wall – these were meant to be watched by defenders to ensure that no one was sneaking up from behind.
This 17th century tower is located in the village of Polihni and once belonged to the noble family of Kokkos. It has some lovely detail work, including a large central dome. Like most of these towers, it is not as decked out as many of the others but it has a great view of the surrounding countryside. It was built before 1610. It is a rare example of a tower that includes both a Catholic cathedral and an Orthodox church – in the latter you can see the coats of arms of the leading Catholic families who once owned the property.
The Castle of Hora
The Castle of Hora was the medieval centre for the administrative, educational and religious activities of the Venetian conquerors. It was also a very important military base. Inside the walls of this mysterious, medieval castle settlement you’ll find a church that was once Catholic and later Orthodox, the Panagia Myrtidiotissa. There are a number of miracles associated with this icon, one of them related to a ship carrying the gold used for the icon’s decoration and another to the fact that the icon managed to ward off the pirates.
The remains of the castle buildings from the mid-14th century are still clearly visible and elements from Hussite times when Kuneticka Hora was an important base for Divis Borek of Miletinek, an able strategist who eventually joined the moderate faction, are also preserved. At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries the castle was rebuilt by the lords of Pernstejn into a massive twin-towered castle with an extraordinary fortification system.
Today, the castle is a museum housed in a handsome old tower house within the kastro ramparts (by the northwest gate). The interior rooms contain surviving wall paintings from this period. It’s a small, but well-curated and atmospheric collection that provides a digestible account of some of the key elements that make Naxos such a distinctive town.