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Lesvos Architecture - Lesbian Mansions

lesvos tower

The Lesbian Mansions or Pyrgelia as they are called in Lesvos, meaning small towers, are the witnesses of an era. With the power and security that their grace gives out along with their harmonious analogies, they create a balance in relation to the environment and fairly they are characterized as the foundation of Lesbian Architecture. These buildings were usually found outside the city and regardless of their final function and use they were firstly built to protect people, animals and goods.

As the years passed by and the need for the economically weak for accommodation was becoming even stronger, the ground floor of the towers was omitted. The dangers of the time influenced greatly the structure of the buildings during that era. The fear of piratical invasions led to the construction of a tower from where they would be able to monitor the horizon in order to notify the other villagers in case of danger. So, mainly around the 17th century the first country houses used as forts made their appearance.

At the end of the 17th century piracy has been diminished so both commercial and economic activities started to rise and important social changes have started to become evident from the end of the 18th century till the beginning of the 19th. Both landowners and merchants showed an interest in social projection along with their participation in social management. The rich landowners used these towers as a summer house, or a shelter for their families in times of plagues. Later on, smaller towers called Pyrgelia started being built inside the town from experienced constructors that gave life to each demand made by the bourgeois of the time who were craving for social exposure.

lesvos traditional house

Their ground floor is almost square, the walls are thick, there are no windows and even the main entrance is high up and can only be reached by a staircase. The most formal rooms of the house are found at the top floor which is projected with sachnisinia that make the floor seem bigger on the outside. There are more windows and as a result the ventilation and lighting is easier than that of the rest of the house, while this floor also has the best view of the surrounding areas. The outside walls of the top floor are made from sheathed wood.

Usually the ground floor is used as a storage room for crops. Some of the ground floors in Lesbian towers had a fall-way with a door that were used as a hide away for the girls of the family to save them from being raped by pirates.

The most characteristic element of these towers were the heavy outside doors which could be locked from the inside with a big wooden bar and a huge lock. The middle floors had either two rooms or just one cohesive space with low height and they were used for the everyday needs. The staff that was used for gathering the olives was sleeping there and there was also a toilet and a kitchen.

The main house was found on the third or fourth floor where there were reception areas that were turned into bedrooms during the night for the owners of the house to sleep. These houses are still known by the names of their owners, (Alamanellis, Fotiadis, Karapiperis, Niania etc.).

lesvos traditional house

These towers nowadays, are threatened by the indifference of some people who state that they do not cover today's survival needs and as a result they are neglected or ruined although they could be used as an accommodation for tourists with great success. The mansions of Lesvos are traditional houses that give a special character to the island that should be maintained since it is a crucial part of its beauty and history.

Another problem that is faced in the maintenance of the mansions is the lack of specialized technicians to renovate the old towers and create new ones. Today, forty years later, 35 mansions and some small towers, pyrgelia, including badly renovated buildings and ruined houses, still exist on the island.

We can be taught a great deal of things from local architecture which is a result of anonymous constructors. The proper protection of Lesvos' towers is something more than necessary since these buildings can inspire us so that our architecture has roots in our local traditions. This is the only way people achieve both acknowledgement and survival.

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