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The beautiful dovecotes of Andros

- by Jeremy Guest

Triangle motif found everywhere on Andros.

Anyone on holiday in Andros cannot help but be impressed by the intricately designed dovecotes that are dotted in fields and villages all over the island.

Although the dovecotes on neighbouring Tinos are more numerous and more inventive, the dovecotes of Andros still have their own special quality that sets them apart.

The large stone-built dovecotes are a legacy of the Venetians who held sway here in the 13th century and who kept doves for both sport and for the table.

But these are no ordinary birdhouses. Many are extremely large; some are nearly as big as the house of their owners.

Most are two-storey affairs with the upper storey housing the doves and the lower used as a storeroom.

The ground floor or 'katoi' was actually once used as the living quarters of Greek peasants who looked after the birds while the upper floor, the 'anoi', was for the pigeon nests.

The most remarkable feature of the Andros dovecotes is not their size but the intricate designs constructed out of the local slate.

The entrances for the doves are triangular arrangements of the slate-like schist that can be found all over Andros. The thin pieces of slate are laid out in innovative triangles, squares and diamonds to decorate the buildings.

This triangle motif is found everywhere on the island of Andros island is a special decorative feature of many houses and garden walls.

The motifs are never identical but always are similar and come in three main styles – the sun-wheel, the lozenge and the cypress tree.

Most of the dovecotes of Andros are located in the south, in the Korthi region of the island. The most beautiful dovecotes are to be found at Aidonia and Kaparia.

More attention was lavished on these dovecote designs than on even the family home as the dove was a symbol of peace and love.

The dovecotes reflect the Andros islanders' traditional love of the arts which also finds expression in the many art exhibitions, folklore festivals, religious and other festivities that are staged on this Greek island every year.