The Marble of Naxos: Greece is a country that has bestowed a number of incredible marble monuments and sculptures to the world. Being the first Greek island to work with marble, Naxos led the way in creating some fantastic and memorable structures. The island also gave birth to extremely skilled stone carvers and craftsmen who have highly sought after. The craftsmen of Naxos were the first to build entire structures of pure and unalloyed marble.
Legend has it that a certain Byzes and his son Euergos were the first craftsmen to make marble tiles. In ancient times, marble in Naxos was extracted from the quarries of Apollo. The marble was white with light ash colored shade with darker zones as well while sometimes ash colored grains were scattered all over the surface.
Today, the kind of marble quarried is a little different. It is either semi-white crystalline or a brilliant white quarried in the center of the island and is quite famous for being one of the finest all over the world. White marble of excellent quality produced on Naxos was not only used for construction but to produce massive sculptures as well.
Naxos is home to the colossal marble wonder called the Portara, part of the unfinished temple to Apollo built during the reign of the tyrant Lygdamis. Other famous works include the huge nude male statues called the kouroi dating back to 7th Century B.C measuring an average of 6,40 meters tall, the Demeter Temple with a marble roof built around the mid 6th Century which has been discovered more recently and the Sanctuary of Dionysos. The large statues of nude men and clothed women found in Naxos are among the earliest of their type found anywhere in Greece.
The most noteworthy example is the Artemis built in 650 B.C which can be found in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens today. However, the most impressive works were those that were never finished. These were massive, "taller than the average tall man" statues that are dated after the Homeric epics.
On touring other ancient sites on the island, you will find marble which was quarried on Naxos and then sent to other countries. Also, around 7th and 6th Centuries B.C, when marble sculpture was at its peak, Naxos exported exquisite marble structures to other parts of Greece like the Sphinx at the Delphi Sanctuary, the lions of Delos and the 25 feet tall marble Apollo in Delos. It must have been quite an impressive feat to achieve especially back in those days. It is undeniable that a lot of Naxos’ prosperity came from exporting marble.
Throughout the island of Naxos, churches, and monasteries are filled with marble sculptures that add immensely to their beauty. Excavations have also found several abandoned marble structures in what used to be quarried. Scholars believe that this was done probably because of cracks that developed in the marble. Lesser grades of marble were turned into whitewash for buildings.
When talking about marble in Naxos, one cannot miss out the village of Apiranthos at the foothill of mountain Fanari also popularly called the "Marble Village". Almost everything in this picturesque village is made of marble. One can see beautiful marble buildings like the Tower of Zevgoli and the Tower of Bardani here. The influence of marble on Apiranthos is so great that one can even see streets paved with marble tiles here. You can visit marble workshops and sculpture studios across the island to get a hands-on, personalized experience of how marble masterpieces are created.
If you do not have the time to check out all the marble wonders in Naxos, you can always substitute it by visiting the marvelous exhibition of white marble figurines in the Archaeological Museum of Naxos. The museum bears testimony to the glorious past of Naxos. Time may have moved forward but the essence of Naxos remains the same.