Traditional homes in Tinos are, much like in the rest of Greece’s islands, designed to be simple and functional.
While Tinos is famous for its boutique shops and art galleries, you don’t need to go far for an exhibit, because the houses themselves are a feast to the eyes.
Tinian Interior Design
Historically, Tinian houses were built with 2 floors and a staircase outside. The ground floor usually held the oven, the stable, the winepress, and storage. Upstairs, the family bedrooms, kitchen and hearth were located.
Arcs often connected the interior walls and were necessary to support the roof, because no wooden support beams were used at the time. Storage areas weren’t usually defined by chests, bookshelves, and drawers, but rather by recesses in the walls.
It is remarkable that houses here had 2 stories and had separate quarters for animals. This differed from the rest of Greece at the time and showed that the standard of living in Tinos was high for the era.
A Feast for the Eyes
Based on the Middle Age tradition, Tinian walls used to be made of natural stone and were not painted. This camouflaged the villages from pirates, and remnants of this traditional style can still be seen today. Nowadays, for tourism reasons (or perhaps to mix with the white of the churches), they have been painted a bright white.
Strolling down the cobbled roads in Tinos is like visiting an art gallery. Doors and windows are decorated with vibrant hues of blue, and exterior walls feature exquisite “lintels.”
What are Lintels?
Lintels (skylights or fotothyrides) are very common elements in traditional Tinian buildings.
They are usually placed over doors and windows, and were thought up as a way to simultaneously ventilate and light the house. Aside from its functional purpose, lintels in Tinos are known for their distinct motifs and themes.
Fish, birds, boats, sailboats, and flowers are usually featured. In some cases, insignias were placed adjacent to the lintels to signify the residents’ social status – a tradition coined by Venetian-era officials.
A chapel for every family?
Not every house in Tinos has its own chapel, but it certainly feels like it. It is estimated that over 1000 chapels are found in Tinos. If you do the math, that’s one for every 9 Tinians.
These chapels were built by local residents as an homage to their family’s patron saint. This was considered a duty. It was not enough just to build the chapel. The owner is also responsible for tending to its upkeep, lighting the oil lamps (religiously, one could say), and cooking a meal for the saint’s feast day.
It is also said that many icons were buried during the iconoclastic days. When they were later unearthed, it was tradition to build a chapel in honor of the Saint where it was found. Typically, chapels are built of stone, and the outside is colored with lime to give it its vibrant white hue.
Residents aren’t the only ones on Tinos who have good taste in design.
Pigeon houses dot the countryside in Tinos and are unique to the Tinian island personality. In Venetian times, before the Turks arrived in 1715, Venetian elites built special houses for doves. It was only later that the houses were transferred to Tinian landowners when the Turks took charge.
There are said to be over 600 on the island, some being built as far back as the 14th century. The pigeons were known as a source of meat and fertilizer to locals, and were a crucial part of trade with the surrounding region, especially in Venetian times. They bred pigeons systematically and exported them as far as Smyrna and Constantinople.
Unlike today, pigeons were thought of as a high-class and nutritious food at the time. It was commonly preserved in jars of vinegar.
More Cycladic Architecture
Tinos has a unique traditional village architecture that captures both the eye and the imagination. However, each village in the Cycladic Islands has its own architecture. Read more about what makes them unique here.