The Macedonian house

Chrisa Melkidi

© Eastern Macedonia ? Thrace Region

The traditional Macedonian house is characterized, as the Thracian one, 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 Macedonian house 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.
After years passing by and due to the increased demands of more space, the part of the chagiati became incorporated in the back zone of the rooms of the Macedonian house with the wide front side. Later, the crosswise side of the chagiati was also incorporated taking a T shape. In this way the type of the closed Macedonian rectangular house was gradually created. The chagiati was limited to the space that is outside the main body of the closed building, standing on swept buttresses and lodged in a small twin gabled roof, on wooden piers with a yard. This is the way in which the open balcony was created, abolishing the stairs and the lodge and adopting an iron frame.
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). The Macedonian house exists in the Middle Ages and is a characteristic sample of the Byzantine rural house and the urban space of Thessaloniki also.

Sources: N Moutsopoulos, Macedonian architecture: A contribution to the study of Greek houses, Thessaloniki 1971. G. Lavas. ?Settlements in ancient Greece?, Settlements in Greece. O Doumanis (edited by P. Oliver), Athens, 1974. G. Athanasopoulos, ?Lagadas?, Greek traditional architecture, v.8, Melisa, Athens, 1991. Ε. Walter-Karidi. The Greek house - Civilizing the house in the period after the classical years, publication of the Archeological Society at Athens, Athens 1996.

Closed rectangular type of Macedonian house at the settlement of Kazaviti at Thasos.
(Photo: Thasos island. Gr, αρχείο 15/39.)

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