Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

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Corridor: Western Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Greece, Cyclades
Type: Vernacular Architecture
Epoch: Modern Times, Middle Ages
Theme: Vernacular Architecture
World Heritage:
Modern TimesMiddle AgesVernacular ArchitectureVernacular Architecture

Tinos, the island of art and beauty, harbours architectural and artistic treasures which make it an enormous museum of folk art. Nature endowed it not only with an abundance of suitable materials, such as green and white marble, slate and granite, but also with a rare environment that unquestionably stimulates artistic feeling. Due to this geographical position, one can see the surrounding Cycladic islands and enjoy golden sunrises and purple sunsets. These artists have also been inspired by a wide variety of historical subjects that reflect the island’s Catholic and Orthodox past and present.
The tinian house is one of the most characteristic creations of folk craft. It is distinguished for its simplicity and functionality. It is usually consists of a spacious rooms which is used as a reception space and two or three smaller room to the rear, or along the sides, used as bedrooms, depending on the owner’s needs, a kitchen with a fireplace, the katoi (ground floor) where all the agricultural production is centered and the courtyard. The courtyard is always on the house’s facade, which never faces north, and on the first floor. The facade of the courtyard has build ledges, usually dressed with marble slabs, as a double ledge (the one is lower) where one can sit and enjoy an enchanting view of the Aegean Sea.
The first floor communicates with the ground floor and the street, normally via an external staircase dressed in marble or slate. The outside door, usually in the middle of the facade between the courtyard and the windows, is decorated with marble fanlights. The flat roof of the house is usually ornamented with a marvelous chimney which creates authentic pleasure with its simple lines. In many houses, the highest point of the chimney consists of an overturned, performed clay pot. Such an appropriate use of materials gives us a moving example of how the practical and aesthetic needs of people can be uniformly met. The house is furnished with what is necessary. Externally, the house has very simple lines, the main decorative element being the semicircular arch, the “volto” which is usually midway between the first floor, as well as built recesses. The “volta” is also encountered along the lanes of the medieval villages, particularly in Agapi, Tarabados and Kardiani.
The most peculiar objects in Tinos are the numerous dovecotes scattered throughout the island. The tradition of breeding pigeons dates back from the Middle Ages. The birds were bred mainly because of their tasty meat and their droppings used as a fertilizer. The dovecotes are beautiful ornament of the Tinian landscape. They are massive, stone-built edifices, the lower floors of which are used as storerooms for agricultural and live-stock products and tools while the upper floors are for pigeons. The dove-cote builders used the local material, slate, with great skill in order to form unusual decorations on one or more facades of the building (rhomboids, triangles, suns and cypress trees. These ornaments form an astounding and harmonic picture. They are truly “built embroideries”. Each one individually and all of them as a whole, constitute architectural monuments and are expressions of popular artistic creation, unique in the world. In the past it the ownership of a dovecote was assign of wealth. For the dovecote owners it was a matter of prestige to have the most beautiful dovecote. Today, the dovecotes of Tinos constitute an architectonical phenomenon.

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