Thracian architecture

Chrisa Melkidi
Source: CETI
© Eastern Macedonia - Thrace Region

Traditional Thracian architecture, especially regarding residence, is characterized by features similar to the ones of the ancient Greek and Byzantine architectural period: the same orientation (south), the chosen sites going down (they are not hollow) and a special care for the view. The yard along with the buildings defines the internal court and has a deeper symbolic and functional importance beyond the safety one. The court incorporates the real meaning of its name: ?everything included?. It is straightly related with the concept of ?environment? that according to the ancient Greek approach means ?to dress?, ?to hug? and it is connected with health, welfare and pleasant living.
The traditional Thracian house during the Turkish occupation has a wide front side and combines semi open air and closed private spaces in two parallel zones with sachnisia (closed balconies) -usually two- that frame the characteristic chagiati (roofed floor extension) at the front. The chagiati is the most characteristic element of Thracian architecture, a semi open air key-space that is the ancient Greek ?pastad? or ?prostad? (propylaeum at a wide or narrow space).
The bi level residencies had an underpinned Thracian-Macedonian chagiati on the floor, the Byzantine ?doxatos? (from ?doxarion? that comes from ?toxarion? because this space had many small arches and ?toxo? means an ?arch? in Greek). The chagiati was preserved in the posterior centuries in Greek and Slavic areas connected with the semi open air spaces, with a special use and function and with many typological and morphological variations. The chagiati is closed and with many windows especially in areas with a low temperatures. Its primal function was to control sunshine during the year over and then it was used for some stages of the production (i.e the tobacco process). The chagiati preexisted to the period of the tobacco cultivation. Sachnisia (closed balconies) have an analogous to the chagiati function.
The characteristic of Thracian architecture of domestic space is the small number of furniture since the bigger ones were fixed constructions like rectilinear living rooms placed at one or two corners of the house, adjacent to the walls and under the windows. It followed the ancient Greek tradition of comfort through the function of settee. This is the reason why many of the architectural elements, such as the windows? position at the external walls and their height, are designed while based on the anthropometric sizes on a settee and not sitting on a chair.
The constructions are mixed: the framework is made of stone and the floors of tsatma (daubed walls with woven branches or wooden ells joined with lime mortar boosted with straw or goat hair).
There is a variety of architectural types of buildings in Thracian architecture that reflects the social and professional construction of the population.
So there is the flat rural house, the mountainous bi level clean and tidy house and the mansion of the urbanized communities of the Ottoman period. The special buildings made in the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th are seminal constructions of mixed use, such as: residencies and stores / residencies and home handicraft -like the cocoon houses of Evros. There are buildings of exclusively industrial use: miles, buildings for fiber dying, for olive press or storages like the tobacco storages of Xanthi. Another category is the one of buildings for educational purposes, the religious buildings (monasteries, churches, mosques), opium dens (spaces for praying and worshiping by Muslims and Bektashides -the followers of bektashism), tourbedes (the Muslim mausoleums) and public fountains. There are architectural works with a special construction, like fortification works (castles, castellated residential groups) and infrastructure works, like mains and bridges. The Thracian refugee house appeared in the Thracian countryside and cities during the settlement of refugees who came in the area after the Asia Minor destruction of 1922, in 1926 and onwards. A part of Thracian architecture is the Pomak architecture we meet at the Pomak villages of Rodopi.

Sources: Chr. Melkidi. Aristotle, Politica. G. Megas, The Greek residence. A historical evolution of it and its relation to the Balkan building, no 37, Ministry of Rebuilding, Athens, 1949. N. K. Mouraopoulos, ?Contribution to the typology of the northern Greek residence?. Proceedings of the second symposium on folklore of Northern Greece. 1976. G. Lavas, ?The architecture of the northern Greece?s tradition?, Greek Traditional Architecture, vol.8, Melisa, Athens, 1991 pp 10-24. N. Moutsopoulos, ?Greece?, Balkan Traditional Architecture, Melisa, Athens, 1996, pp. 349-411. G. Kizis, ?Thrace?, Greek Traditional Architecture, vol. 8, Macedonia B ? Thrace, Melisa, Athens, 1991.

Typical urban, with wide front side traditional house of the Old Town of Xanthi, with two sachnisia that frame the chagiati, painted in the familiar indigo color that is dear to the Thracian architecture.
(Photo: N. Panagiotopoulos)
Aspect of the Thracian-Macedonian chagiati at a residence of a rural area (chagiati of a cocoon house at Metaxades, Evros).
(Photo: V. Voutsas (?THRACE?, Greek Traditional Architecture, v.8: Macedonia B ? Thrace. Melisa, Athens 1991 p.70 picture 116))

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