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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mastihohoria Part II : The architectural patterns

The new villages were built upon the Italian architectural patterns of that time, by Latin architects, building contractors and engineers, though with the obligatory participation of local farmers as workers. At the centre of each settlement, there was a tall rectangular tower. Around it, houses were contiguous one right next to the other, while the walls of those built upon the external perimeter of the village, formed a defensive wall, outlined at its corners by cylindrical turrets with embrasures. Alleys were narrow and quite many of them were blind, so that invaders could not easily reach the Tower, that is the village heart. That specific architectural plan, besides protecting the village, also made it possible for the lord to close the gates and to have absolute control on his subjects.
The houses generally follow the same principles as to the layout of their spaces,
without excluding though a certain variety. They are stone-built, with a ground floor and a first floor, and their spaces are covered by semi-circular domes (called germata). The ground floor usually housed stables and storing spaces for agricultural products, while the actual rooms of the residence were situated at the top floor, surrounding a central open space, called pounti, used for sunning and airing the entire floor. All lofts were almost at the same height, in order for inhabitants to escape easily from one house to another in case of external danger. As soon as building works had been completed, the Genoese lords settled themselves in the towers and local farmers were required –in other words “forced”– to occupy the newly-built houses. For example, at least 14 old hamlets were evacuated in order to populate Pirgi, which was built at the beginning of the 15th century in the heart of mastiha’s area, a location formerly occupied by a Byzantine stronghold, Agii Apostoli church and possibly by an older settlement as well. Out of all Mastihohoria, the ones best preserved are those that were not greatly damaged during the catastrophic earthquake of 1881: that is Pirgi, Mesta, Olimpi and somehow less Vessa, Kalamoti and Elata.
Today, those medieval villages’ town planning and architectural characteristics are still recognisable in a limited number of settlements to the South of the island.

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