A sacred place of the Aegean with uninterrupted life and function from the 14th century B.C. up to our times. It is the cradle of the Ionic order of the monumental Greek architecture.
The sancturay of Iria has been located (1982), investigated (1986-1996) and presented to the public (1992-1996) by the University of Athens in collaboration with the Polytechnical School of Munich, with the financial support of both Univesities as well as the Ministry of Culture (research) and the Ministry of Aegean (presentation).
The religious function of the Iria sanctuary at Livadhi, Naxos, dates back , to prehistoric times (1300 B.C.) and the use of the site for religious purposes continues, uninterrupted, until today. Its importance is attested not only by splendid architectural finds, but also by the numerous votive offerings dedicated to the deity worshipped in the sanctuary during all its long history, but especially during the earlier periods.
The importance of the buildings discovered at Iria is so great that scientific discussion on the subject has taken a central place in international archaeological bibliography and in handbooks on ancient architecture.
The worship on the site has had a brilliantly testified and uninterrupted sequence (worship of Dionysos in antiquity and of the relative St. George later on). This sequence supports in a vivid way all other evidence that bears witness to a cultural continuity at Naxos, since 1500 B.C. onwards.
Research had already shown that Naxos played a leading role in the development not only of sculpture but also of architecture. Yet the first steps in the creation of an lonic monumental style remained unknown. The second temple of Iria provides evidence as early as the 8th century B.C. for the first known monumental arrangement of the interior with a four-aisled hypostyle temple hall, astonishing for its time. The third temple provides first hand evidence for the existence of a wooden. prostyle portico, the fore-runner of the columnar facade of archaic temples. The fourth temple, datable to 580-550 B.C., provides the earliest example of Ionic prostyle temple in marble. It is at this temple that the, until recently, unknown primary steps of the monumental marble architecture are being documented, in the foundation of the facade and of the adyton, in the column's shape, in the impressive door-ways, in the shaping of the entablature and of the marble roof. Here are the architectural forms that prevailed throughout the course of ancient architecture, and still today are employed world-wide as an expression of the monumental.
The history of cult dining in sanctuaries and the creation of special buildings for this purpose can also be observed at Iria. Here the succession of the early archaic, apsidal building of the rectangular classical and the late Roman ceremonial dining-halls, takes this type of building back to much earlier times than it was known up to niw. With the presentation of the Iria, sanctuary the pioneering contribution of Naxos to the formation of Greek architectural forms can be examined in detail by the scholarly world and understood by the general public. At the same time it provides a unique picture of the unbroken continuity of a high civilisation for over three thousand years in the heart of the Aegean.