Epirus

Epirus’s remarkable cultural depth in the arts and traditions adds even more value to it as a destination. As a crossroads of cultures, the location of various conflicts and religious influences, a number of arts have long been developed that are preserved to this day, such as wood carving, painting and iconography, silversmithing, weaving and the “art of the stone”. All the above are showcased today in the many folklore museums of Epirus, many are also mentioned and commemorated in events and festivals through dances and music, some are even still observed and practiced in everyday life. Today’s Epirotes are the gate-keepers, the successors of these old traditions, respectfully preserving this significant cultural heritage.

 

Wood carving is one of the main arts developed and practiced during the past centuries, with Metsovo being the main area of interest, the “stronghold” of the famous Epirus wood carvers who operated not only in Northern Greece, but also in Thessaly and in present-day Albania. In case you have been to Thessaly’s Meteora, you must have noticed the magnificent altarpiece at the church of the Transfiguration of the Savior at the “Great Meteoro”, constructed in 1791 by Metsovite wood artists, while the “tayiadori” craftsmen of the villages of Konitsa and Tzoumerka were also widely well-respected. The art of the wood also had its home use, since even today in houses in Metsovo you can spot ceilings with carved rotundas, mesandres, chiseled crooks, all handmade according to the traditional style and grace.

 

Hagiography, par excellence ecclesiastical art, together with decorative painting was another of the arts that the craftsmen of Epirus were known for. The areas where this was practiced the most were in the villages of Konitsa, namely Chioniades, and in Zagori, such as Kapesovo. The Chioniadite hagiographers in the early 20th century travelled throughout the Balkans and created icons for altars and works with baroque decorative elements, while the Kapesovites focused on Northern Greece and left remarkable works with western influences.

 

One of the first and most interesting historical elements that fascinate every visitor in Ioannina is the longstanding tradition of metal working, silversmithing and goldsmithing. There were even guilds operating from the beginning of the 17th century, where during the apprenticeship the candidate craftsman was under the guidance of the carpenter, next to whom he worked and mastered the art. Later, in the 18th century, silverware was developed in Metsovo, Kalarrytes and Syrrako. The result of this tradition is a plethora of ecclesiastical works, such as decorated icons, chalice, asterisks, candles, gospels, but also objects of daily use such as vases, cocoons, mugs and belts that can today be observed both in the Museum of Silversmithing of Ioannina, as well as in folklore museums in the villages, even in houses of Epirotes.

 

The art of weaving could not be missing from this list, a form of folk art that goes hand in hand with everyday life, and also a profession. It is a vehicle of ideas and techniques that are passed down from generation to generation. Indeed, today there are modern schools of weaving, while in folklore museums such as those of Ioannina, Metsovo, Kato Meropi, Stratinitsa the visitor comes in contact with traditional home textiles and their various styles.

 

The art of stone is perhaps the most distinctive art form, the pride and joy of the craftsmen of Epirus. The legend says the stone artists of Ioannina “built the entire world”! Indeed, traditional villages, bridges, churches, mosques, mills and fountains are just some of the works of the renowned craftsmen of the Mastorohoria villages in Konitsa, such as Vourbiani, Pyrsoyianni and Peklari. Those coming from the villages of Tzoumerka, such as Pramanda, Melissourgi, Ktistades, Raftanai and Michalitsi, were especially prominent, since during the Turkish occupation and for several centuries they traveled in “isnafia” (bouloukia) in Greece, the Balkans and especially on Mount Athos. The thorough knowledge of the typology, the ways of structure and the various architectural forms of the Byzantine temples gave very much artistic value to their works and is a carrier of ideas for today’s aesthetic reconstruction. Their rich heritage can be observed at the Museum of Epirus Craftsmen in Pyrsoyianni, but also in every single house in Epirus, every stone bridge, every Byzantine church.

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