Two archangelic homes, “Serafi” & “Tsampika”, ambassadors of Hellenic culture
Built by the original owner’s family, grandfather Manolis, at the start of the previous century, in the 1920s, in compliance with the traditional architecture, these homes were renovated in 2012-13 by the original owner’s grandson and great grandchildren. It was done with absolute respect towards the “arch type” homes which are characteristic of Archangelic architecture.
These homes are found in Serafi and welcome you when you enter the hospitable yard, which is full of aromatic herbs, and flowers and three domineering cypress trees reaching up to the sky. These were planted there by the grandfather of today’s owner and are just as old as these homes.
The homes stand harmoniously in the depths of the yard – simple, one bodied and stark white. The cornice is wrought in relief on the upper part of the façade and around the windows. Above the door the cross, along with the wrought in relief drainpipes and their winding finishes, they “embroider” the homes’ façade with nobility and moderation. Nothing is missing, nor is it superfluous; it is a reflection of the Greek civilizations’ moderation and harmony – a repose of the heart.
The homes’ doors open and the beauty floods your heart and overflows with the surprise of the “piateloticho” (the plate wall)! They are the hand painted plates, which accompanied the bride to her new home, with the big mirror in the middle and the family pictures. But why so many plates? With beauty there is no “why” – it just saves us.
In the interior of the homes, the “kamara”, (the arch), which parts the home in two, dominates harmoniously without distracting from its unity. Famed craftsmen of Archangelos built it with big hand cut stones and at its center, they wedged the “arch’s key” (klidi tis kamaras). The whole house rests on the “arch key”, symmetrically and is uniquely balanced! They are “arch” homes, named after the Archangelic type of architecture. Directly under the “arch’s” key, the “kroukela” (long hanging chain with a large ring at its end), where the oil candle hangs with its serene light escaping flightily all night from the small windows of the Archangelic home, balances between God and man.
You are in the homes and spontaneously you turn left, towards the “soufa”, the heart of the home. The “soufa” etched and elevated 20 – 30 cm from the ground, layered with bulrush thatch mats, which were made by the village women. And on that, there is the “kourelou” (a handmade rag rug), which almost imposes a whole new mode of communication – which is that of coexistence with others. In the “soufa” the whole family gathered there to eat, to do housework or to relax with friends and neighbors. The “koumelo” (fireplace/hearth), which is in the interior corner of the “soufa”, warms the home and its occupants’ hearts. On its left and right are the two “kastelia” (shelves), full of multicolored, hand painted cups and pitchers and the walls too are covered with plates.
Originally, in the “koumelo”, the housewife cooked the family meals and that is why next to that there is the “tsimia”, (the chimney), where the spoon and salt rack hung. Later they added a small extra space, outside the home, the “kouzini” (kitchenette) even so, the real heart of the housewife’s life was the outdoor, wood burning oven in the yard. Every Saturday they baked bread, every Easter they made the “rifiki” (traditional Easter meal – lamp stuffed with rice and cooked in a special closed cooking pot used for wood burning ovens), and the “augoules” (special large, Easter cookies with a traditional red Easter egg wedged in the middle), and in the oven’s glowing, burning coals, the “manatsouki” (an earthen ware pot used in these ovens), simmers with “fasolada” (traditional bean and vegetable dish). How delicious!
Behind the arch, on the right is the “apokrevatos”, a wooden loft with carved railings. It is the newlyweds’ bedroom, in front of which hangs the “namousia” (a curtain) with its ribbons, which isolate it from the rest of the home. On the left is the “abataros”, the lower wooden loft. It is the children’s bedroom.
Directly under them (bedroom lofts) there were the pantries. The Archangelic homemakers always made sure that the large earthen casks were full of olive oil, olives, wheat, “trachana” (paste made with coarse flour and sour milk), pasta and wine. All these products were made by the family during their respective seasons. They were productive families not just consumers.
The furniture in the “arch type” archangelic homes is minimal but all usefull. Under the “piateloticho” (the plate wall) is the “pagos” (a long storage cupboard) which was used to store things. On the “sofa” is the “sini” – a small, low “table” and a wooden dish rack on the wall.
You then turn your eyes up towards the “skepasi” (roof), the top part of the homes which is made of cypress tree trunks. The “korfadia” (tree tops) are spread from the façade towards the arch and from the arch to the back wall. Then on this they laid the reeds, tied with a reed grid or nailed down. Before the renovation there was a thicket of oleander on the reeds. This was called the “felada”. And then there was a layer of white clay with hay and water, which they called the “rodochoma” (the rose soil). On top of the “rose soil” they spread the “patelia” (an argyle soil), which didn’t allow the rain water to come through and made it waterproof.
Today after the renovation, on top of the reeds, “the inverted room (space)” method was the solution that was chosen. This method ends with a layer of small rocks. In that way the natural balance of the homes was maintained and the practical portion of the insulation problems was solved. The four corners of the “skepasi” (roof) continue to be supported by the four Evangelists (small wooden icons of the four Evangelists on each cornerstone of the roof).
These two archangelic arch-type homes, “Serafi” and “Tsampika”, opened their doors in the summer of 2014 to everyone who would like to familiarize themselves with it and experience it (even if it’s for a short time). They will feel the civilization which these homes carry within them and also what they exude. For this reason they are accompanied by activities which the guests are strongly advised to take part in. The purpose is to initiate the guests into the Archangelic way of life. The opening of these homes to the people aims to render the unique cultural heritage of Archangelos Rhodes. But they will do it in a different way – by living for a week in a “live – folklore museum” and by participating in related activities.
- “Ethonas”: magazine of Cultural Association of Archangelos. Issues 4th, January 1992 and 6th, April 1993.
- Narratives of elderly residents for arch-type archangelic home.
- Personal notes from the discussions with the last occupant of the house, Maria Damianou.