The valley of Tragaia is situated in the center of Naxos island, 16 km from Chora, the capital. It is surrounded by the mountains “Koronos” and “Fanari” in the north, as well as mount “Zas” in the southeast. Tragaia’s central position contributed to the area becoming the commercial centre of mountainous Naxos. The villages of Tragaia are Halki, Koutsoherado, Tsikalario, Kerami, Metohi, Kaloxylos, Monitsia(Rahi), Akadimi.
Tragaia’s rich history starts in ancient times. Walking paths from Tsikalario and Koutsoherado lead to Apano Kastro, a castle of central Naxos dating to ancient times. Its pre-historic walls were the fortress of ancient Tragaia; the remains of two ancient cemeteries from the Geometric period (so called after the characteristic Geometric art of the time) lie of the foot of the castle. There one can see a “menhir“, a large upright standing stone of great beauty. The castle, used concecutively also in Byzantine and Venetian periods is quite impressive: fortification walls, loopholes, water tanks, chapels, palaces are part of a medieval city worth visiting.
Tragaia is known as a “Byzantine Mystras”, since most of the churches of Naxos are built there. Many of the churches are quite remarkable, the oldest probably being the church of Panagia Protothronos in Halki (circa 6th century) which has very important architectural characteristics as well as successive layers of frescoes from different eras. The church is dedicated to the Annunciation, and was probably an early Christian basilica, of which only the synthronon and the episcopal throne in the semi-circular sanctuary conch survive. In middle Byzantine times the building was converted into a transitional cross-in-square church. The church interior is decorated in five successive layers dating to the early Christian period; the 9th century (non-figurative decoration); and the 10th, 11th, and 13th centuries. Some of these were detached and then repositioned once the earliest layer had been removed, so frescoes from different periods are now visible. The church of Saint George Diasoritis, a Byzantine church built on the path to Monitsia village is also extremely interesting. It was built and decorated in the 11th century. It must have been one of the most important churches in the region, attested by the architecture, the wall paintings, the sculptures, the two arcosolia with graves in the narthex and the inscription. In Monitsia village one can also see the churches of St Isidore and of Panagia Rahidiotissa. Close to Kaloxylos village one can visit the church of Panagia Damiotissa and in Kerami village the church of St John Theologos.
Tragaia held a prominent administrative position during the Byzantine and Venetian periods. A variety of Venetian monuments like the Barozzi tower in Halki can be found in the valley. One can also find the towers of Akadimoi village, Kerami village and Metohi village all of which belonged to the Greek family Markopolitis who ruled the area during the period of Ottoman rule in Greece (from the mid-15th century until the successful Greek War of Independence that broke out in 1821). In Kaloxylos village there was also a tower built by the Kokkos Venetian family which was torn down by the villagers in order to use the large stones to build the village church.
Tragaia was essentially the administrative and commercial centre of mountainous Naxos; Halki was in fact the first village to have electricity. In Halki one can see beautiful neoclassic buildings, indicative of the economic bloom. In Halki, which is a marvellous place to take a walk, go shopping or have some coffee, the visitor can also taste the famous liquor “kitron” in the premises of the traditional distillery operating since 1896.
Every village of Tragaia is unique; Tragaia is indeed a combination of history, tradition and natural beauty.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.