ABOUT THE VILLAGE
Kastaniani is a stunning stone-built settlement and one of the Mastorochoria of Konitsa. It is built at the foot of Giftisa (1750m) and nestled in beeches, firs and mainly chestnuts, from which it took its name. The two streams flowing through the village divide it into three mahalas: Mesaria, at the entrance of the village, Galina (name of Slavic origin) and Rachi.
Being one of the most beautiful villages of Epirus, Kastaniani is known for the stone craftsmen, both in the village and in the wider region. In the village the visitor can see the four stone bridges, the stone built three-storey houses with wooden balconies, front doors and windows with one-piece pre-castings (horizontal beams located above a door or a window), fireplaces with carvings, cobbled streets and stone walls.
The inhabitants of Kastaniani extended their activity leaving remarkable works in the wider area of Epirus, among which the hexagonal bell tower of the church of Agios Nikolaos in Tsepelovo, Zagori (1868), as well as the building of the Clock in the central square of Ioannina, designed by the architect Pericles Melirrytos from Ioannina, built in 1905.
History & Information
Historical evidence suggest that the first settlement began somewhere in 600 – 700 at Skourlia place, at the foot of Giftisa (1750m), but it was destroyed by barbarian raids (Huns, Serbs, etc.), as was the second one in 900 that was created in Malnitsa. The third attempt (1018) was in today’s position and it was considered safer. Historical sources report that in 1778 Cosmas of Aetolia passed from here, who persuaded the inhabitants to sell some of their precious species (gold, silk, etc.) in order to raise money and create a Greek school. In 1919, six years after the liberation from the Turks, Kastaniani became the seat of her own homonymous community.
The war of 1940, the catastrophes and hardships of the Occupation, the Civil War later, the poverty and unemployment of the 1960s, resulted in the immigration of young people into the big cities and abroad. The population declined and gradually the village began to desert. The 1967 census showed that while the enrolled people in the community were 835, only 253 were permanent residents.
In 1950, it took the name Kastanea (not Kastania, as some say), although the inhabitants continued to use the old name Kastaniani, which created some confusion, since the village Kastani at Delvinaki was also called Kastaniani. Finally in 2013 the residents managed to get back their old name Kastaniani.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Kastanians followed the migratory flow to America where they worked on building and railway works, and in 1909 they founded the Saint Nicholas’ Beneficial Society in St. Louis, Missouri, in memory of its central church of their own country. The expatriate Kastanians with their return to their birthplacem they gave new impetus to the place, financing the construction of new two-storey houses, some of which are still preserved. In those years the house of the Gosios family, also known as Gosiadiko was built, a magnificent three-storey building with jammed windows and a roofed balcony on the upper floor that dominates to our day in the center of the settlement.
Today there are many beautiful stone-built old mansions, two-storey and three-storey, with courtyards, wooden balconies and carved fireplaces. Some beautiful cobbled streets have also been preserved, as well as the old School on the main square. It is a two-storied stone-built and well-preserved building. It was built in 1894, as an inscription says, but has been closed for several years. In front of the school you can see the bust of native Dimitris Papadimas in recognition of his great benefits.
The winter months are difficult and lonely as in all of the villages of the Greek countryside. The summers are filled with life with the locals who come to the homeland and the visitors who enjoy the beauty of the village.
The village is ideal for very nice walks with 4×4 or walking, through wonderful vegetation, such as the route to St. Trinity, located at 1100m. altitude with nice views of the Sarantaporos valley and the other villages and is accessible by uphill forest road. Those who want to enjoy better views, but also a more beautiful route through black pine and beech forests, they can. You may also follow the routes to the Mastorohoria of Smolikas and Grammos.
What to see in Kastaniani
Old stone bridges: There are four one-arch bridges saved:
The bridge of Galina (or Mesaria Galinas): inside the village, at 872m. altitude. The first bridge was built in 1835 in the same location, but it was drifted away by a disaster. However, since it was necessary for the communication between the two neighborhoods, they built the present one (1936) with the flat cobbled path. We do not know who offered the money, but we know that the mastermaker Nikolaos Vlachos built it (1906 repair).
Malinitsa: 500m. north of the village, in the homonymous location and above the homonymous stream, at 841m. altitude. Accesible from the road towards the village Lagada.
Mitsaion or Mitsadiko: A small stone bridge in the same location in the village.
Rachis (or Mesaria Rachis): Above the stream called Ag. Apostoloi, at 881m. altitude. It has a flat cement grout and it was built in 1895, unknown by whom, to join these two neighborhoods.
Agios Nikolaos (1926): The patron saint of the village. A beautiful church on the main square, with a renovated stone faucet and a beautiful iconostasis. It has an amazing woodcut temple, the work of the famous wood-carver Charalambos Skalistis, and old icons of the 17th-18th century. The hagiographies to the left and to the right of the Old Gate come from the old iconostasis of the old church, which already existed in 1640 at Clenia site.
Seventeen chapels built around the settlement are connected with the history and tradition of families, which were also responsible for their preservation. They are a reference point and local people and pilgrims gather to celebrate the feast to honor the saint protector.
Watermills: There are two near the village, one at the site of Milos, recently repaired, and the other at the Kampos site near the Sarantaporos River. Also, in some houses, there are some old stone handmills.