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The architecture of Chora
Following the wishes of Christodoulos, little was built in the area around the monastery walls until the Sack of Constantinople in 1453, when ‘a hundred’ refugee families from the capital settled here, creating the new neighbourhood of Alloteina, to the west of the monastery. The arrival en masse of these sophisticated urbanites into the midst of a community of tenant-farmers gave rise to a flourishing of vernacular architecture which is particular to Patmos. But these were not the only refugees to arrive: in 1669 a further ‘fifty’ families from Crete sought refuge on Patmos after the Ottoman capture of Candia and created the area of Kritika, this time to the east of the monastery. Then, in the early 19th century, the successful ship-owners of the island created their own neighbourhood, between the monastery and the eastern area of Aporthiana, on the steep northern slope of the hill—the only point from which the harbour and their boats were clearly visible. At first the separate mansions of the 16th and 17th centuries were large complexes set in their own plots of land or in walled gardens; then, with increasing prosperity and population, and an economy that required artesans and labourers, the spaces between these mansions were filled with smaller dwellings, until the whole area became a contiguous urban texture of tiny streets and houses, in which the original mansions were only distinguishable by their larger bulk. Two kinds of stone, both local, were used: a grey granitic rock, and a softer beige limestone. Characteristic of the whole settlement are the dressed stone corners of houses, and the beautiful carved window and door-frames. These are set off by the plaster and whitewash applied over the stone filling of the walls in such a way that the accents of the architecture—arches, cornices, frames—are clean and clear, and stand out enhancing the beauty of the town scape. Roofs are flat for the catchment of rainwater, which is channelled into deep, flask-shaped cisterns cut into the ground below. A balance between openness, ventilation and privacy is achieved by the use of a walled court or avli; but, in Patmos, this is often repeated on the upper floor, and in the large mansions such a space becomes a grand roofed verandah, vaulted with arches between two blocks of the house. This may be seen, for example, in the Simandiris Mansion, which is one of the few open to the public today. All these buildings, small and great, grew organically and were added to over time, giving them a rambling asymmetry and pleasing irregularity of volume. This, in turn, has created the winding irregularity of the street plan, where streets and alleys vary constantly in width and often pass through passageways under projections of the houses overhead. In the end this has led to the formation of few open, public spaces, and Patmos remains to this day strangely bereft of the traditional central plateia.
Patmos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.