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Home 28 February 2020
Culture Traditional forms of Art - Professions Silver work Epirus Ioannina

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made of stone
Silver work
Wood sculpture
Hagiography - Painting
Syrako and Kalarrytes
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The institution of guilds played a significant role in the financial life of the Ottoman Empire. It was namely the organization of the technicians of every specialty into a union with specific rules, restrictions and rights. It is an institution that paralleled the one that existed in the Byzantine Empire and was maintained until its fall.
In Ioannina, already since the Byzantine period and more specifically in the 14th century there are indirect indications regarding the existence of guilds. With the capture of the city by the Turks and the concessions given to it, the guilds were reorganized on a new basis, in order to continue their course up to the end of the 19th century. They especially grew and acquired an economic vigor during the 18th century, during which period the financial activity in Ioannina is very intense. Aside though, from their professional purpose, guilds also had a social and economic role in the framework of society as they took care of those who were impoverished, helped the financially weaker technicians and contributed to the economy of the community but also participated in all expressions of communal life.
The existence of the guild of the “xrysikon” (goldsmiths) is known since the beginning of the 17th century but official data exists only for the 19th century. Of course whatever applied for the remaining sectors also applied here. Namely the guild was closed and for one to receive the title of head craftsman in order to have the right to open their own workshop, they must first be a student for 3-4 years as an “underling”, then be nominated as kalfas (apprentice) and finally, when his employer decided, would he receive the coveted permit. During the apprenticeship the candidate technician was under the complete control of the craftsman he worked for and apprenticed with, and even if he left no one else could take him under his employment.
The first official information on the guilds of Ioannina, therefore also of the silversmiths, comes from the beginning of the 19th century. Then, in 1812, and in a city of 30,000 residents, the recorded goldsmiths amounted to 53, a number quite high given the population. The years that follow record a declining course, so that in 1818 there were 26 recorded technicians. Also, in the second decade of the 19th century the existence of 34 workshops is recorded. This gradual reduction of goldsmiths is not only due to economic reasons but possibly also due to their own attempt to preserve the number of craftsmen to a point where they could control the production and the market.
The war of the Ali Pasha with the Porte, the almost complete destruction of the city, the migration of many Ioanninites and the plague that followed led to the economic decline of the guilds. However in the middle of the century they recover, without though ever reaching the economic levels of the period before 1820. Thereby, in the second half of the 19th century the silver-goldsmith workshops channel their products to the local market but also to the international one, through the commercial networks of the time, the trade fairs and the caravans.
The end of the guilds, among which also the one of the goldsmiths came at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The changes in financial transactions, the evolution of the economy and the differentiations in commercial needs and habits led to the withering of an institution that tried to keep a profession closed and “within the walls”. The various technicians must now move professionally in a market economy, without the protectionism of the guilds, which fulfilled their professional, economic and social role during the previous periods and died down as an historical necessity in the face of a new era.