Panagia Drosiani in Moni

The most famous Byzantine church and one of the main attractions of Naxos is the church of Panagía Drosianí near Moní. It dates from the 6th century AD and is one of the oldest churches in Greece. In the late Middle Ages, it was used as a monastery, which gave the name to the nearby village. The church has a unique, rather unusual architecture. The oldest part is a nave with a dome and an apse with three niches (typical for early Christian churches from the 4th to 6th centuries). Unusually, the nave is orientated not towards the east, but towards Jerusalem. To the north, three oblique chapels were added to the church in the Middle Byzantine period, of which the two outer have again three-niched apses. The walls are constructed quite carefully of small, unhewn stones. On the south side, a broad gable for the bells was added in a much later time. Inside, the church is decorated with unusual, very old murals (7th century).


The church of Panagía Drosianí is located in the olive groves below the village of Moní.


The church with its rare and very old murals is an important tourist attraction on Naxos. Inside the church it is forbidden to take pictures; if you want to see the murals, you have to visit the church yourself!


Here the two northern chapels with their domes and in the background the dome of the main church.


The church is built from local raw stones.


the chapels and the bell gable from the north


The window of the apse divided by a pillar is typical of the early Christian period.

Inside the church very interesting and unusual murals are preserved, which date back to the early Christian period (6th and early 7th century). These very early paintings were later partly covered by lime plaster, partly by more recent murals (from the 12th to the 14th century). During the restauration of the church since 1964 the younger murals were removed to expose the lowest, early Christian layer (the younger murals are now in the Byzantine Museum in Athens).

The early Christian murals of the church of Panagía Drosianí are very unusual, some almost unique, such as the double representation of Christ in the dome as a young and an older, longbearded man (corresponding to the two aspects of Christ as human and God). Interestingly, similar murals are not found in Greece, but rather in churches in Ravenna and Rome. It is possible that this connection to Italy is due to the fact that in the 7th century, at the time of the creation of these paintings, the Roman Pope Martin I spent some time in exile on Naxos.

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