Hospitable beaches in the South, steep rocks in the North, dry-stone structures upon waterless and arid slopes, uncommon relieves on granite masses, beautiful villages with a view to the Aegean blue and a prosperous plain in the mainland; it’s all about Tinos.
‘Beautiful bride of the Cyclades’ is the name reserved to Tinos by visitors and locals. ‘Beautiful’ refers not only to the island’s natural beauty, but also to the exquisite Aegean Architecture of its unique villages.
Belfries, churches and houses are built from granite, marble and slate; their high aesthetics are unique and characteristic to the island, a technical adorn to the natural beauty of Tinos, consisted of golden sand or pebble beaches. When the sun sets, it offers the gift of a magnificent spectacle to the island.
In Tinos, two Christian dogmas co-exist in harmony. The church of Holy Virgin Evangelistria is an important pilgrimage of great spiritual significance for the Orthodox. All year long, thousands of Greek pilgrims visit the island. At the same time, Tinos is an important centre for the Roman Catholics, especially the Greek Catholic Church. Visitors are immediately informed that Tinos is a religious centre; one has only to look around to see numerous churches. The pilgrimage reaches its peak on the 15th of August, on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, when the island is flooded by visitors!
Tinos is the 3rd biggest island in the Cyclades Archipelago with a land area of 197 square kilometers. The island’s coastline extends to 114 kilometers approximately. Tinos is located on the northeast of Andros and on the northwest of Mykonos. Its highest peak is at 725m., on the mount Tsiknias. According to mythology, Aeolos, Greek god of winds, had his residence in Tsiknias strait; the area is very windy indeed, making justice to the myth.
Tinos has more water than most of the Cyclades islands and subsoil that is rich in mineral resources. The island produces white and green marble; a material used for the construction of the Buckingham Palace and the Louvre museum. Other mineral products of Tinos are chrome, lead and iron..
Tinos’ mixed religious orientation favors the island with a special folklore interest. Locals speak a dialect with unvoiced vowels, modified consonants and an extensive use of western names converted to Greek. Regardless of dogma, both Orthodox and Catholic Christians in Tinos have a deep love and respect for the Holy Mary. Orthodox population celebrates the Holy Mary on the 25th of March and on the 15th of August, where Catholics celebrate on the first Sunday of May and on the 15th of August, as well.
The island’s inhabitants are particularly hospitable and offer generously food and shelter to the pilgrims during religious festivals.
In order to avoid further soil erosion, over the years the island’s people has built small fields supported by stones on the slopes of the mountains, where they grow their vegetables. These peculiar structures are called “pezoules”. As agriculture population in the island has been diminishing, a big part of the land is left uncultivated. The island’s products today are cereals, citrus fruits, olive oil, wine and raki, a strong alcoholic drink. Part of the island’s produce is exported.
One of the healthiest products of Tinos is honey. Not too long ago, silkworm farming was an important sector of the island’s economy. From late October to early December, the island celebrates the custom of pig-slaughtering (hirosfàghia). Many families breed a pig; friends and relatives come together for the animal’s slaughter that provides the extended family with the quantity of meat needed for the next months.
The island has abundant produce in marble; a fact that explains why Tinos has become Greece’s biggest centre in marble sculpture since 1830. Temples, skylights, fountains, tombstones, and architectonic details, all made of marble, indicate Tinos’ specialization. Sculptors from Tinos originated from the traditional villages of Pyrgos and Ysternia, turned the island famous to Greece and abroad. Experienced craftsmen from the island were hired by Greek and foreign architects after Independency to rebuild Athens, to build mansions, churches, and restore historical monuments of the Antiquity. Some of the most famous Greek sculptors such as Fytalis brothers, Filippotis, Halepas etc. come from traditional marble sculpting families of Tinos.
The island is proud for its more than one thousand bright-white dovecotes; apart from their obvious utility to shelter pigeons, they are unique folklore Cycladic architectural constructions. They are usually built on slopes or ravines in order to help pigeons fly high; dovecote’s upper part has triangular or polygonal niches with rich adornment externally. Local craftsmen worked on Tinos’ slate to build the dovecotes, and all their stone embroidery adorns. Important patterns on their work are the circle; symbol of sky, the square; symbol of earth and the triangle; symbol of birth.