The semi-mountainous village of Filoti in central Naxos is a quiet place that merges 3 smaller settlements, namely Klefaros, Rachidi and Lioiri. Nested in its eastern premises is the orthodox church of Panagia (Virgin Mary) Filotissa or Filotitissa; it is known with both names of the same origin, the village’s name. The structure is typically whitewashed, with details in white marble such as its magnificent triple bell tower atop its roof and the clock tower next to the main church. Panagia Filotitissa is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastic structures in Naxos and the history behind it is equally fascinating.
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Interestingly enough, the building that stands to this day is not the first one constructed in its place; the very first church recorded there was dating back to the Byzantine era, in the period between 1071 to 1204. That very first church of Panagia Filotitissa was unfortunately destroyed in 1544 in a pirate raid. The second structure was completed and officially open to the public by the 1st of August 1718.
The story behind its reconstruction is astonishing and there are historical books covering it in detail. In summary, the field in which the ruins of the previous church laid was bought by the Venetian family of Barozzi, as was a significant part of Naxos back in the 16th century. The feud lord Ch. Barozzi declined the pleas of the villagers to submit the field for the church’s reconstruction but was defied and the locals commenced works on it. After a series of judicial battles between the Barozzi and the villagers, the locals were granted permission to complete the church of Panagia Filotitissa, much to everyone’s surprise. The reason for this unexpected outcome was the result of a Filoti villager named Stefanos Psarras that showed humanity and kindness to a Turkish child that survived a shipwreck near the Naxian coast. In the next decades, Psarras fostered the child until its 18th birthday, when it was accompanied back to Istanbul, becoming the Ottoman Empire’s top judicial figure. He was the one in charge of the church’s reconstruction trial, returning the kindness he experienced to its foster parents and villagers of Filoti.
Lastly, one of the intricate features of Panagia Filotitissa is the triple bell tower, not only for its exquisite craftsmanship, but also for its carved details; in the central column it depicts the benevolent Psarras and next to him Virgin Mary holding infant Jesus. In the other two, depictions of holy figures, flora, fauna and local beneficiaries’ names are carved in the marble.