Chioniades
The village of folk painters

Chioniades

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CHIONIADES

The village of folk painters

Chionades (or Chionades or Sioniades) is a small, mountainous, acretic settlement drowned in the green and built on the eastern slopes of Grammos, and in particular the Bandra’ s peak that we share with Albania at an altitude of 1159 meters near the border with Albania and over the villages of Asimohori (Leskatsi) and Gorgopotamos (Turnovo, framed by rugged peaks and canyons and has an endless view to the valley of the Vourbianitiko stream.

Because of the heavy snowfall and many rains, there are many springs with plenty of water forming two torrents on either side of the village, Alonitikos and Manouras, which meet up and flow into Sarantaporos, the tributary of Aoos river.

HISTORY AND INFORMATION

It is also one of the historical villages of craftsmen, known as Mastorohoria of Konitsa, with the characteristic paved square, the tall stone terraces due to the sloping ground, the fountain, the plane tree and, of course, the stone cobbled streets and the stone houses. It was once the center of a large geographical area with common cultural features: the Mastorohoria in Voio, Kastoria, Florina, Tzoumerka, but also in Cologne, Korce, Elbasan (today Albania).

Because of the heavy snowfall and many rains, there are many springs with plenty of water forming two torrents on either side of the village, Alonitikos and Manouras, which meet up and flow into Sarantaporos, the tributary of Aoos river.

It is also one of the historical villages of craftsmen, known as Mastorohoria of Konitsa, with the characteristic paved square, the tall stone terraces due to the sloping ground, the fountain, the plane tree and, of course, the stone cobbled streets and the stone houses. It was once the center of a large geographical area with common cultural features: the Mastorohoria in Voio, Kastoria, Florina, Tzoumerka, but also in Cologne, Korce, Elbasan (today Albania).

There is no data when the settlement was created. However, from the many Slavic place names in the village and from the words that came into the vocabulary of the inhabitants, we conclude that this place was inhabited before 1000 AD. Chioniades and the villages of the area seem to have been created by joining, perhaps, nomads who felt the need to form a united community.

In one version the first inhabitants of Chionades built their first village in the 14th century at the “Paliospita” site, with a central church the existing church of Agios Nikolaos, and where there are three cemeteries. Later in the 16th century, unknown why, they abandoned this site and settled in today’s.

Chioniades are divided into two settlements – Mahalades – and in the center you will find the two schools and the church of St. Athanasios, which is distinguished by far. The village has this name since ancient times, as old inscriptions testify. Its name is always called in plural, and can be Greek or Slavic. Its origin has three versions but the most prevalent is that it derives from the adverse weather conditions and the many snowfalls, that hit this border region. (Parenthesis: the word chioniades = χιονιάδες in Greek mean heavy snowfalls).

During the times of Ottoman domination, the agro-livestock economy of the self-sustaining mountain communities of Epirus was affected by the increase of the local population and by the permanent establishment of immigrants from other areas that did not provide security to the residents. The natural resources that existed were not enough to feed all the inhabitants, so many mountain villages were forced to turn to technical expertise, which in the process stamped their social and economic profile

After the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699) which ended the Austro-Ottoman war of 1683-1697, to which the Ottomans were defeated, had remarkable consequences for the Greeks, because it enabled Greek merchants to resume trade with Venice and the Austrian Empire, which helped in the economic revival of Greece. The rhythms of the newly-built churches and monasteries were rapid and the demand for professional hagiographers, woodcutters, etc. was great.

Chionades, one of the smallest villages of Konitsa with a population not exceeding 350-400 people, is a typical example of a community that its inhabitants have turned to technical expertise.

An article by folklorist Kitsos Makris titled The “tribes” of Chionades and the epirotic handicraft – painting  published in 1977 at ARMOLI (a magazine with topics from Pyrsogianni and surrounding Mastorohoria), refers to the sources of the Epirotes peasants – painters, such as Kapesovo, Sudena, Samarina (noting that Samarina, although it belongs to Macedonia, it is culturally belongs to the Epirus region), Fortosi, Kalentzi, Chionades, and concludes that Chionades was the largest nursery of painters.

Regarding the professional organization and teaching of art in Chionades there are no written sources to enlighten. However, their national law laid down not only the conditions governing the exercise of the profession, but also the successive stages of apprenticeship and responsibility in the production process. Especially small apprentices started from auxiliary jobs and successively assumed more responsible duties. The folklorist, after a study, concludes that the painters of Chionades did not join a professional guild, but were divided into tribes (families). The men of the tribe were not occupied all with painting, but the main source of livelihood was the livestock farming.While men were missing from their homes, their farming activities were taken over by their spouses.

The main families of the Chionades’ painters were two, the Paschalades and the Marinades. The relations between the two families were friendly and the members were married.

The painters of Chionades, apart from the hagiographies that were their main work, were also engaged in other areas of their art, such as landscape, portraiture, historical scenes, decoration of chest facades and still life.

Hagiography paintings: From the 15th century, Chioniades remain in history as “the village of hagiographers” and are known all over Epirus and those who are engaged in the folk arts of Epirus.

Influenced first by the so-called Ipiroto-Theban School of Hagiography and later by Italian and Eptansian painting, the Russian hagiography of Mount Athos and paper lithographs and copper engravings, the Chionades painters-hagiographers spread from the 18th to the middle of the 20th century in Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Albania by painting icon screen for churches, frescoes in monasteries and churches, as well as portable icons for houses, decorating the mansions of in Zagori villages especially with topographies, floral prints, portraits, decorations of all kinds and still life.

Of course, it is worth noting that the people of the village did not follow the flow of stone technique as the rest of the inhabitants of Mastorohoria, but they excelled in the field of painting and hagiography. In regards to the roots of the hagiography in Chionades there are the following versions:

  1. Because many of the well-known hagiographers have long been found in Mount Athos, the tradition prevailed that the first hagiographers of Chionades were students of Emmanuel Panselinos (a Greek hagiographer from Thessaloniki. Τhe elements of his life are unknown. He has left many important hagiographies on Mount Athos, especially the monasteries of Vatopedi, Lavra and the Protaton church at Karyes. Most researchers place him temporally before the Fall of Constantinople in the late 13th – 14th centuries).
  2. Another version says that their art came from Italy. Breeders from the village of Aetomilitsa settled in Chioniades and when after a heavy winter they lost their flocks, their children went to Italy and learned the art.
  3. In the third version, the hagiographers, originate from Byzantium, who, after the fall of Constantinople, passed to Italy. Later they landed in Igoumenitsa and then settled permanently in the most civilized and Greek-speaking village of Chionades.

The well-known hagiographers number over 65, impressive for a village of 350-400 inhabitants, without excluding others who worked particularly in the Greek Orthodox villages of North Epirus or elsewhere in Greece.

Like the craftsmen of neighboring villages, so the painters-hagiographers were working in organized groups. They left their place in the spring and returned in the autumn to spend the winter in their homes and to deal with livestock farming as well as with the painting of portable icons. On their journeys they came into contact with the new artistic movements that circulated in Western Europe and the large urban centers of the Ottoman Empire and added new architectural and artistic elements in their art.

Painting art in Chionades was practiced on the basis of family professional engagement. The needs required younger family members to be apprenticed close to their experienced relatives. This helped them by dealing with secondary jobs while learning with them. Depending on their degree of development in painting, they often became collaborators and succeeded or made their own crew in the same way. The apprentice painters followed the crew of their relatives from an early age.

The profession gave painters financial comfort that allowed them to live with some nobility and many had the opportunity to study their children, even though they had large families.

This development continued in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, from then on, this beautiful folk painting slowly began to decline. People stopped painting houses and churches, while the paintings were limited to collections of museums and individuals. Some other events also contributed to this  such as the desertion of villages with the wars and the emigration of young people and, moreover, the ignorance and the inability to recognize the value of then or the popular painting in time, so as not to be lost many of those wonderful masterpieces.

Education: From the information gathered by the folklorist and historian priest of the village Georgios Paisios in his book the schools of Chionades during the Ottoman domination, it turns out that from 1750 until 1866 the school operated in St. Athanasios the central church of the village. In 1855, with the donation of Catherine Papa (3,000 piasters), the first school building was built, and in 1905 it was built a new building with funds from summer pasture hunting, fundraisers among the residents and the assistance of the Vourbiani Brotherhood.

During the Ottoman period, the school had gained a great reputation and collected students from the surrounding villages (Ashimohori, Pyrsogianni, Vourbiani, Erceka), where among other courses were taught Algebra and French.

In the course of time Chioniades followed the path of decline with the data of the Statistical Service, testifying to the sad reality of the desertion of the village. According to the 2001 census, the permanent residents were only 7 and today only two. The indifference of the State has forced most residents, like the other villages in the province, to leave their homeland to seek employment in Ioannina , most in Athens and many left abroad.

Fortunately the everywhere immigrants love their hometown and try to keep their folkways and traditions alive either by creating Brotherhoods in different places (Arta 1883, Massachusetts 1920, Ioannina 1926), or by creating Associations or by publishing of various magazines, dealing with cultural and historical themes, a reflection of the past, narratives, descriptions and stories from the place and the surrounding villages and making these not only useful as a tool for extracting historical, cultural and social elements but also pleasant. The archives of older researchers and the collaboration with scientists and collectors are not only a commendable but also a link to the all-around Chionades.

In the summers many retired people come to their homeland with their families, and the village comes alive for a while.

ACTIVITIES

From Chionades, hikers and mountaineers can make various nice trips both on Grammos and further afield to Aetomilitsa and the Arenes Mountains (2197m). It goes without saying that you need a good physical condition, as well as an experienced guide because the paths are not marked and do not exist on maps.

Grammos is known mainly for his warfare in World War II and Civil War and for many years his villages have been isolated.The massif of Grammos, which is part of the Natura 2000 network (Ecological Network for the Protection of Regions of the European Union), presents an impressive ensemble due to the diversity of its relief. With the homonymous pyramidal peak dominating majestically at 2,520 m and a number of peaks with an altitude well above the 2000 m. ιt composes an impressive ridge with a length of over 15 kilometers and a north-south direction. The geological formations, the many and high peaks forming valleys (Grammosta, Aetomilitsa, Plikati), the beautiful alpine lakes (Grammosta, Moutsalia) and the rich flora and fauna make it one of the most beautiful and interesting natural landscapes.

EVENTS

On July 20 a feast in the chapel of Prophet Elias takes place.

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