13 - 23 July 2014
Monodendri is a village in the Ioannina, Epirus region, in Greece. It is part of the Municipality of Zagori and is located 41 km north of the city of Ioannina. Monodendri is built at a height of 1060 meters and retains much of the traditional stone-built architecture.
The name \"Monodendri\" came into use only in the beginning of the 19th century. Its origin is in a very large tree, whose remains still existed in 1910. The village was previously considered a neighbourhood of Vitsa.
As with the other Zagori villages, Monodendri enjoyed an extended period of commercial and economic prosperity during the 17th and 18th centuries. There were schools built, churches in the Byzantine style and luxurious stone manors. The first school, the Scholarcheion, was founded in 1750.
Monodendri was the birthplace of the merchants and national benefactors Manthos and Georgios Rizaris.
There were three schools in Monodendri in the 19th century, a primary school (“Ellinikon” or Common School of Greek Studies founded by the brothers Manthos and Georgios Rizaris in 1835) and housed in their original home, an Allelodidaktikon (high school) and a school for girls, the Parthenagogeion, also founded by the Rizaris brothers in 1841.
Monodendrites usually immigrated to Macedonia region and Southern Greece. Outside Greece, they immigrated to Egypt, Romania, Asia Minor, Africa and the USA.
The church of Aghios Athanasios, in the middle of the central square, is of significant historical value. The monastery of St Elias dates from the period of the foundation of Monodendri at the turn of the 15th century. From the same time dates also the church of St George. Near the village lies the historic monastery of Agia Paraskevi, built on the edge of the Vikos Gorge. The monastery was founded in 1412. It was a property of the monastery of St Elias but was refounded as a nunnery in 1778. The panoramic view from the monastery is spectacular.
The bequests of the Rizari brothers are visible in the village today, and include the Rizarios Exhibition Center, the Rizarios Handicraft School, the Rizarios Primary School. The open-air theater “Aggelos Kitsos”, is used for cultural festivals during the summer months.
Zagori is an area of great natural beauty, with striking geology and two national parks, one including the river Aoos and the Vikos Gorge, the other around Valia Kalda, to the east of the imposing snow-capped Mt Tymphe.
The 45 or so villages of Zagori were interconnected by mountain roads and traditional arched stone bridges until modern roads were opened in the 1950s. The stone arched bridges were built by benefactions from expatriate merchants in the 18th century and replaced older wooden bridges.
The region has been historically difficult to access due to its mountainous terrain; this contributed to its security and stability rather than being a disadvantage.
Unique customs are associated with ancient Greek, pagan or Christian festivals. The larger churches and monasteries celebrate their nominal saint feast with a festival that can last several days.
Characteristic songs of mourning (moirologia) accompany the lamentation of the dead. Funerary rites include the exhumation of the bones of the deceased following a period of 1–3 years. The bones are washed, perfumed and placed in a wooden larnax and kept in ossuaries in each village.
Villages are built around a central square, also called mesochori (village centre) with a large church, a plane tree and a public fountain. Cobbled streets and footpaths interconnect the rest of the village. Each individual neighbourhood has a smaller church.
Most churches in Zagori date from the 17–18th centuries onwards, although some older foundations survive. In most villages the main church consists of a sizeable basilica built of stone with a wooden roof covered by slate. They are decorated by mainly Epirotan hagiographers in the Byzantine tradition. The entrance to the church may be protected by a colonnaded arcade. The campanile is usually detached from the church.
Houses until the 18th century were simple rectangular dwellings, often with only a ground floor and with ancillary areas in the basement used as stables. Indeed this appears to be the style of construction of the dwellings in the excavated Molossian site near Vitsa. Houses are built of local stone and have a slate roof. The roof slates are held together without cement, only by the weight of the slates above them. The slate roof therefore requires continual upkeep, subjected as it is to heavy snowfalls during the winter months. That older type was developed through the 18–19th centuries into more complex styles all the way to the multi-storied manors of the wealthier families of the late 18th century. Many houses are fronted by a walled courtyard or garden. The courtyard gate is an edifice in itself, covered by a slate roof and connecting the house to the rest of the village. The basement of the house contains cellars and other storage areas that may be used as additional quarters for animals. Few of the old manors survive, most having fallen victim to disrepair. In those that survive, the ondas room is the most spacious, has a large fireplace and may have floral frescoes. It was used for the reception of guests.
The Vikos Gorge
As the heart of the Vikos–Aoös National Park, the Vikos Gorge is the largest and most picturesque among the gorges of Zagori. The Vikos Gorge collects the waters of a number of small rivers that form the Voidomatis river which flows through the gorge. The Vikos Gorge at 990m deep is one of the deepest in the world, indeed the deepest in proportion to its width. The Vikos Gorge is also a site of major scientific interest, because it is in almost virgin condition, is a haven for endangered species and contains many and varied ecosystems.
Municipality of Zagori
The Municipality of Zagori consists of the following villages:
Agios Minas, Ano Pedina, Aristi, Asprangeloi, Vitsa, Dikorfo, Dilofo, Dipotamo, Elati, Elafotopos, Kaloutas, Kato Pedina, Manassis, Messovouni, Monodendri, Agia Paraskevi, Anthrakitis, Greveniti, Demati, Doliani, Elatochori, Itea, Kavallari, Karyes, Kastanon, Makrino, Petra, Potamia, Tristeno, Flambourari, Papigko, Vradeto, Vrysochori, Iliochori, Kapesovo, Kipoi, Koukouli, Laista, Leptokarya, Negades, Skamneli, Tsepelovo, Frangades. Vovousa.