My husband is funny, thoughtful, generous, and kind. Is this why he is a rare type of Greek? No, it is actually because of his religion.
The population of Greece is 11 million and the Greek constitution recognizes the prevailing religion of the country as Eastern Orthodox. In fact, 81 to 90% of the population are practicing Orthodox.1 My husband is Roman Catholic, of which there are only 50,000 to 70,000 in Greece, or less than 1%. 2
My husband’s family comes from the Cyclades Island of Tinos. In 1207, Tinos came under Venetian rule and was ruled by the Venetian overlord Ghizi, a relative of the Doge of Venice. Constantinople was a significant trading partner with Venice and Tinos is located on the trading route.3 My husband’s great-grandmother’s name was Concepta Ghizi. This does not mean that she was necessarily a descendant of the overlord. It was common for people working for the overlord to have taken his name.
Today, the Island of Tinos has a significant Roman Catholic population, with entire villages being Catholic. When I was in Tinos two summers ago, I visited the Cathedral of My Lady in the village of Xinara. This is where a portion of the Roman Catholic records are kept.
What a privilege it was to meet the Archivist, Irini Fyrigou. Each village on the island maintained and still maintains registers of births, marriages, deaths, and other events and she consulted the register for the natal village of my husband’s family. She also cross referenced to the register of the main town of the island. It was such a thrill to see the original entries in Italian, with the older entries in Latin.
The meeting with the Archivist confirmed what we always suspected. These Roman Catholics are the descendants of Venetians who have managed to maintain their religion for centuries.
Florakis E. Alekos is an historian whose speciality is the Island of Tinos and he has researched the origins of the surnames. My husband’s last name is Delatolas. The first time this name was registered on the island, it was written De La Tolla (from Tolla). Tolla was apparently a village near Venice. My mother-in-law’s maiden name is Fyrigos. This name designates someone from the island of Kythera, located south of the Peloponnese Peninsula as this island was known as Cerigo during the period of Venetian domination. The person from Cerigos would have been designated as o Σερίγος (Cerigos), becoming 0 Φυρίγος (Fyrigos) over time. This island was also on the trading route between Venice and Constantinople. 4
So this is why my husband, a Roman Catholic, is indeed, a very rare Greek.
- Wikipedia web site, Demographics of Greece, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Greece#CIA_World_Factbook_demographic_statistics, accessed April 10, 2019
- Wikipedia web site, The Catholic Church in Greece, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Greece, accessed April 10, 2019
- Tinos 360o web site, 3 http://www.tinos360.gr/istoria_eng.html, accessed April 10, 2019
- As explained by Irini Fyrigou, June 2016.