The uniquely decorated dovecotes of Tinos are a trademark of the island. They are scattered around the landscape – the ones near the village of Tarabado are among the most impressive.
They were used for rearing pigeons that provided meat and rich fertilizer for the fields. Their elaborate decoration makes them real works of art.
In Tinos, along with sculptures and paintings made by renowned Tinian artists Yannoulis Chalepas, Dimitrios Filippotis and others, you can admire intricately designed dovecotes. The two-level structures resemble fortresses and are decorated with both geometric patterns including triangles and rhomboids as well as non-geometric ones like cypress trees or variations of the sun.
Although dovecotes are found on other Cycladic islands too, those on Tinos have reached a decorative brilliance unparalleled anywhere else. The edifices were originally constructed for several reasons, but pigeon breeding was probably the most important reason. Domesticated pigeons offered both meat and manure which was considered the best fertilizer around.
If a dovecote was able to attract fifty pairs of pigeons, it could easily provide a good portion of its owner’s food needs. The pigeons would also act as quarry for falconry and a live target in shooting matches that were very common on the island during the 19th century.
A dovecote was also a status symbol. Owning one was a mark of grace and aristocracy, and it was often passed from generation to generation. Today, effort is being made to preserve the dovecotes on Tinos. They are being restored by volunteers and the Association for the Conservation of Dovecotes. A walking tour is being planned that will allow visitors to visit several of them, all within about an hour’s drive from each other.
Tinos is the cradle of some of Greece’s most acclaimed marble artists, including Giannoulis Halepas and Dimitris Fillipotis. As a result, the island is also renowned for its architectural masterpieces. These can be found in churches and their chancel screens, house lintels (often in the form of marble “coats of arms” or “coats of cypresses”), as well as many fountains and even grave monuments.
The most elaborate expression of local artistic creativity is found in the dovecotes of Tinos. These edifices are fair-sized and typically adorned with geometrical patterns such as rhomboids, triangles, cypress trees and variations of the sun.
It was probably the Venetians who first introduced these imposing edifices to the island, since they conquered it from 1204 until 1715. The inhabitants then started adorning their dovecotes, turning them into true works of art.
Today, a lot of effort is made for these impressive structures to be preserved. In order to do so, volunteers are busy restoring the ones that have been damaged over time. A great number of these dovecotes can be viewed in the main village of Pyrgos, where one can also visit the Museum of Marble Crafts and the Panormos Artists Museum (which displays works by several Tinian sculptors). While there, don’t forget to try some galaktoboureko or portokalopita in one of the local cafes.
Sculpture is an art form that portrays three-dimensional shapes and figures in order to communicate certain artistic aspects of life. Throughout the centuries, sculptures have served many purposes, including magic rituals, funerary art, and even political expressions of power. Today, sculpture is most commonly used for decorative purposes. Sculptures can be created in a variety of different styles, ranging from realistic to abstract.
Tinos’ unique blend of Greek traditions, religious fervor and artistic expression is on full display throughout the island. The imposing Church of Panagia Evangelistria is a must-see attraction, drawing pilgrims and tourists alike to admire its intricate marble carvings.
The island’s many villages are also a feast for the eyes, with quaint squares, whitewashed houses and winding marble streets. The town of Pyrgos in particular is home to a number of impressive marble workshops, where skilled artisans create delicate and ornate sculptures and carvings.
In the past, marble carving was the most significant industry on the island, earning its sculptors a world-wide reputation. Although the art has evolved over time, sculptors still continue to draw inspiration from the island’s natural beauty and rich history. The island’s sinuous coasts, peaceful beaches and nature-carved rocks inspire artists of all types. Their work reflects the intangible magic that binds us all together. The work of sculpture can be seen all over the island, from churches and their chancel screens to house lintels and marble “coats of arms.” Even in grave monuments and graveyards.
The love for doves in the Greek culture is known since antiquity. They symbolized the Holy Spirit and they were connected with peace, love, and tenderness. They are depicted in engravings, embroideries and paintings. Dovecotes are a trademark of Tinos, and they are the highest expression of folk art on the island. Usually, they are made of stone and are very elaborately decorated with recesses the shape of a triangle, rectangle, rhombus or circle. They are located on paths, slopes and especially near streams because pigeons need water to take off and land. During the Venetian occupation, dovecotes were undorned but with the arrival of the Ottomans in 1715 conditions changed, so people started to decorate their dovecote, turning them into works of art.
It is not a coincidence that the main church of Tinos, Panagia Evangelistria, in Pyrgos, was dubbed “the hand-made island.” In the 50-odd villages of the island you will see how marble sculptors have transformed every lintel, doorway, and fountain into an artistic masterpiece.
A walk through the villages of Tinos is like visiting a small museum. It is a feast for the eyes, with its narrow alleys, whitewashed houses, and beautiful churches. The culture of the island is a captivating blend of Greek traditions, religious fervor, and artistic expression. And its gastronomy is equally impressive, with a variety of local products, including the famous Tinian wine.