Genealogy

Petimezi

We were visiting my mother-in-law in Greece when my husband brought out a blackened cauldron from storage. He placed it on the table with great ceremony and announced that we were bringing it back to Canada. “But first,” he said, “we need to restore it.” The next day we hauled the cauldron down to the Monastiraki area of Athens. Mainly this area has little souvenir shops and is a great place to go shopping. In the winding roads behind the shops you can find all sorts of workshops. This is where we found a coppersmith who could restore the cauldron to its former glory.

My mother-in-law believes that the cauldron may be around 125 years old. Her grandmother, Maria had gone to Turkey, around 1900. She was a young women then and had gone to work as a domestic in the rich homes of Constantinople. Maria came back to Greece and to her native island of Tinos during the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923. She brought back with her many objects from Constantinople and my mother-n-law believes that the cauldron was one of them.

My mother-in-law remembers her mother making petimezi in the cauldron over a wood fire. Petimezi (from the Turkish word pekmez)1 is made by boiling down the juice of the grapes, after removing the skins and squeezing the grapes through a sieve to extract the juice. The juice, or must, is then boiled down to a thick syrup. There is no fermentation involved.2 It is still made today on the island of Tinos but previously it was widely used by every family as a natural sweetener when there was no other sweetener available.

One can also add marl, a sterile soil. This soil clarifies the liquid and neutralizes the acidity of the must.3 Even today, some of villagers on the island of Tinos will add marl to the grape must.

My mother-in-law remembers that sometimes ashes were added to the petimezi when they were making it. Adding the ashes would ensure that the dirt would rise to the surface where it could be skimmed off, a way of sterilizing the must.4

Today this copper cauldron, completely restored, sits proudly in our home.

Cauldron

 

 

  1. Wikipedia web site, “Grape Syrup,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grape_syrup, accessed October 16, 2019.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Rafaelli, Lucia, We Love Istanbul web site, “The Healing Syrup of the Turks : Pekmez,” December 28, 2015,https://www.weloveist.com/pekmez, accessed October 16, 2019,
  4. Fonini, Real Greek Recipes web site, “How to make grape molasses – reduced grape must, https://www.realgreekrecipes.com/how-to-make-grape-molasses-reduced-grape-must/, accessed October 16, 2019.
Genealogy

Lifting Up

“My father will be lifted up soon,” my husband, Georges, said to our dinner guests. I could see the puzzlement and consternation on their faces as his father had been dead over three years. Our guests were obviously wondering what exactly this meant and how to react.

I hurriedly intervened by saying, “Georges, in Canada, we leave corpses in the ground forever.” Now our guests were really confused.

Georges then explained the funeral rites in his native village of Skalados, on the island of Tinos, Greece.

Skalados is a small village with a population of under a hundred permanent residents. In the summer, the population can more than double as the families who have left the village to live elsewhere, mainly Athens, come back to enjoy their summer break on the island of Tinos.

Skalados is a Roman Catholic village and the cemetery is Catholic. When one of the villagers die, bells ring from the Catholic Church of Saint John to announce the death. The funeral service is held fairly quickly, usually within twenty-four hours, as is the custom in many hot countries. Embalming is not usual in Greece.

While the person is placed in a coffin, the person is not buried with the coffin.  The deceased is wrapped in a shroud and carefully placed in vault that has a dirt bottom, cement sides and a marble covering. There are eight places or vaults in Skalados. This means that, at some point, the person must be exhumed to make way for others.

I remember my mother-in-law explaining that when her father had been ‘lifted up’ (σήκωσε), she was the one who lovingly washed his bones with wine and prepared them to be transferred to a small chapel that is part of the cemetery. The bones are placed in a vault, identified with the person’s name and often the birth and death dates, along with a picture.

Today, though, it is not necessarily a relative who will wash and prepare the bones. One can hire someone to do this.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is considered the prevailing religion of Greece, as 90% of the population belongs to this church. Roman Catholics represent less than 1%. 1 It is no surprise that the Catholics in Tinos hold memorial masses for their loved ones as the Eastern Orthodox Church requires.  A memorial mass is held on the third, ninth and fortieth day after death, as well as three months and six months following the death, and on the first anniversary of the death and sometimes three years after the death.2

After the funeral and the memorial mass, coffee, liqueur, alcohol, and other refreshments are served. These refreshments are provided by the bereaving family and are quite elaborate. My mother-in-law explained that when she was young, relatives and friends came from far, often on donkeys, and would need a meal before the long journey home. This tradition still continues today.

Also, in the village of Skalados, the family gives a loaf of bread to each household. The family in each home will then say a prayer for the deceased’s soul during their evening meal.

The Greek Orthodox Church prohibits cremation, therefore it is not common for the Roman Catholics in Greece to have their loved ones cremated.3 For the moment, the closest crematorium is in Bulgaria, although the Greek government has approved plans for a crematorium in Athens, despite the opposition of the Greek Orthodox Church. There is overcrowding in the cemeteries and people are exhumed after three years to make room for others.4

It is the custom for bereaving women in the Orthodox Church to wear black for at least two years following the deaths of their loved ones. The Catholics of Tinos also follow this tradition.

 

  1. Wikipedia, Religion in Greece, accessed May 20, 2019
  2. Wikipedia, Memorial Service in the Eastern Orthodox Church, accessed May 19, 2019
  3. Everplans web site, Eastern Orthodox Funeral Traditions, accessed May 20, 2019
  4. The Guardian, March 12, 2019, Greece defies church with step towards first crematorium, accessed May 20, 2019
Genealogy

My Husband, a Rare Type of Greek

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.

 

 

 

  1. Wikipedia web site, Demographics of Greece, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Greece#CIA_World_Factbook_demographic_statistics, accessed April 10, 2019
  2. Wikipedia web site, The Catholic Church in Greece, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Greece, accessed April 10, 2019
  3. Tinos 360o web site, 3 http://www.tinos360.gr/istoria_eng.html, accessed April 10, 2019
  4. As explained by Irini Fyrigou, June 2016.

 

Genealogy

The Dovecotes of Tinos

By Sandra McHugh

I have lucked out. My husband comes from the island of Tinos, Greece and we go there every year. I am always struck with the breathtaking beauty of the island. Some villages nestle in the valleys and others perch on the hillsides. The hills are terraced with stone walls and sheep, goats, and cows graze in the fields. Tinos may resemble other islands in the Cyclades, but what is unique to Tinos is the number of dovecotes scattered across the landscape. If you were to visit Tinos, you would be astonished at how many of them there are. While the exact number of them is not known, it is believed that there are over 1,000. This is quite impressive for an island that is 195 square kilometers. 1

They are truly beautiful as you can see in these photographs below.  This dovecote used to belong to my husband’s grandfather.

Antonios' dovecote

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Dovecotes are not just decoration. During the 1900s, dovecotes significantly contributed to the family finances. They were kept in the family and passed on from generation to generation. My husband inherited a dovecote from his father, who had inherited it from his uncle. While very few people eat dove today, my husband remembers his grandmother serving dove, more specifically in soups made with the meat and carcass of the doves. Most importantly, the family also used the dove droppings as manure. The droppings were well known as high quality fertilizer.

Here Is a picture of my husband’s dovecote, nestled in the valley.

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It was the Venetians who originally introduced breeding of doves to the island of Tinos when they conquered the island in 1204. They ruled the island for five centuries until 1715. During Venetian rule, dove breeding was only practised by the noble, or ruling classes. The noble families had ‘le droit des colombiers’ or the right to possess doves. These were concessions bestowed by the Doge of Venice.  In 1715, the Turks ruled the island, but did not inhabit it. The island was returned to Greece in 1821. 2

Most of the dovecotes were built during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, dove meat was not limited to local consumption. It was considered a delicacy and exported as far as Smyrna and Constantinople.

When the Venetians ceased to rule Tinos, concessions to practice dove breeding were no longer necessary. The inhabitants started to build their own dovecotes. They were built in areas conducive to breeding, such as rural areas near cultivated fields and where a water supply was available. 4 They were built on slopes that took into consideration the wind and would allow the doves to fly easily in and out of the dovecotes. The doves nest in the square holes built in a single or double row. Small stone slabs that protrude provide perches for the doves. 5

Here is a picture of some doves nesting and some eggs.

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Dovecotes are made out of slate clay and are whitewashed. They are two stories high. The doves live on the second floor and the first floor is used for storing tools and agricultural equipment. They are elaborately decorated with geometric patterns and non-geometric patterns such as cypress trees. It is believed that these patterns attract the doves. 6

Here is a close up picture of my husband’s dovecote. These doves are fed and their only predators are snakes. There are about 30 doves living in this dovecote at any one time. We know approximately how many doves are living here by counting them in a picture.  There is great pleasure in continuing to breed doves, a practice that has lasted centuries.

DSC06981[1]

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1 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

2 Author not identified, PDF document entitled Dovecotes of Tinos in Archnet.org

3 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

4 http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/tinos/tinos-other/tinos-dovecotes.htm

5 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

6 http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/tinos/tinos-other/tinos-dovecotes.htm