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The Mastorokalfades of Voio


Architecture – The Mastorokalfades of Voio

Locals of Voio never had a reputation as stock breeders. In fact, the area’s herds belonged to Vlachs who brought their stock here from Thessaly during summer months. On the other hand, locals used to maintain small numbers of animals for family use and were more fond of farming garden produce and fruit trees. However, their main preoccupation was stone chiseling. The inhabitants of the area were passionate with the obedient stone that is shaped in the hands of the experienced artisans. They are the ones that gave life to this craft and took it to unparalleled levels.

Local folklore is intertwined with local stone dressers. Throughout Voio there are remarkable specimens of a unique Folk Architecture that dominated the early 18th century, mainly represented by the famous Mastorokalfades (artisans). These competent craftsmen built magnificent mansions, elaborate drinking fountains, sturdy churches and baronial monasteries with enormous clock towers. They linked river banks, erecting single-arch or multiple-arch stony bridges.

Their technique is mainly evident in local residences. Built in stone, with wooden windows, doors and roofs, they can be found perched on mountain slopes and so perfectly integrated in the landscape, that one thinks they are part of the natural scenery. They are not only single-storey structures, but also two-storey and three-storey, with plans that serve the needs of the residents and their daily way of life. Large stones emphasize the outline of the buildings, while the characteristic slates in the corners bear the date of building, the figures of the owner, the master builder, or even religious symbols that protect the house and the residents from evil. In the interior, the carved fireplaces feature themes of birds, roses and flowers, illustrating stories inspired by the artisans. The buildings are complemented by the cobblestone yards, which are framed by tall, stone fences with characteristic wooden gates. Adorned with large nails, the gyftokarfa (“gypsy nails”) in interesting patterns, they are sheltered by roofs with wooden frames and stone slates.

It was only natural that the fame of the artisans went beyond the limits of the Voio area and led them to migrate. These artisans were the beginning of a historic route that gave Greeks every right to feel proud for their deeds during Turkish occupation. Organized in craft unions and speaking their own language, Koudaritika, so that their employers wouldn’t understand them, they worked mainly in Pilio and Thessaly, but also in the entire occupied country and beyond. The team included the master builder, who secured the deal and had the chief responsibility for the project, two carpenters, various stone carvers, two quarry workers, two bushelers, two renderers and apprentices.

Pentalofos, old Zoupani, was the point of reference where most artisans came from. This is why locals used to say proudly: The people of Zoupani built the world. In the preparations of their departure an entire ritual was carried out, as is described very vividly by Nikolaos Moutsopoulos: They would set out, before midnight, in silence, the master builder, the artisans, the animals and the children. All relatives with their youngest offspring would escort them to the curve of the road and bid them farewell. The artisans would constantly stop and whisper something to their wives. When the heavily laden horses had disappeared in the forest, the relatives would return to the village and women would let water run from the bronze pitcher, in accordance to the old custom, so that it would leave a trail and allow the master to find his way back home.

The last farewell was made at a tree outside the village, the Klapsodentro (tree of tears). There, the mothers, the wives, the sisters and the daughters of the artisans wept. They kissed and hugged each other over and over again, and then the family would part.


Come out in the tree of tears, 

To bid me farewell, 

To watch me disappear, 

And sing for me. 

Makarios Pileas (1899)

The night before, relatives and friends would gather in the artisan’s house to bid him farewell and bring him gifts, such as crepes, bread and red wine. The entire village was in upheaval. They ate all together, but could not enjoy it. Their hearts were heavy. They then drank wine and sang all together:

As many mountains I have passed, I bid to all of them,

O mountains do not snow, valleys do not cover yourselves in dew,

Not until I go and return,

And it takes twelve years and fifteen months,

And I return to my homeland,

I find snow in the mountains, dew in the valleys,

And I find my dear mother dead in the grave,

Curse you foreign lands. Curse you thrice.

One of the most famous names of artisans was that of busheler Georgios Lazos or Vraggas from Agios Kosmas in Grevena, who left several works in many villages of the area, which are today invaluable. He passed away in 1933 at the age of 66.






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