Their journeys in relation to the art renaissance of Greece
Like the stone masons, the wood sculptors were «ITINERANT ARTISTS AND TOGETHER WITH THE TOOLS OF THEIR ART THEY CARRIED EVERYWHERE THE SAME TECHNIQUES AND THE SAME DECORATIVE AND AESTHETIC RULES. THAT IS WHY WOOD SCULPTURE HAS PRESENTED A UNIFORM STYLE THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GREEK AREA». We mainly note a differentiation on the islands, especially at the Eptanesa, where from the 17th century onwards the western style influences were even apparently evident at certain iconostases of Epirus, as for example at Preveza.
At Metsovo the art of wood sculpture commenced a long time ago, during the Byzantine years. «THE GREAT PEAK AND THE BLOSSOMING OF THE METSOVO POPULAR ART COMMENCED AFTER 1659, WITH THE EXCELLENT POLITICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL PRIVILEGES, WHICH THE METSOVO PRIMARY CHIEF SHEPHERD KYRGOS PHLOKAS HAD EXTRACTED FROM THE SUBLIME PORTE THAT RENDERED METSOVO AN AUTONOMOUS REPUBLIC. IT WAS THEN THAT WOOD SCULPTURE ESCAPED FROM BEING A CRAFT AND ASCENDED INTO THE AREA OF ART WITH THE ICONOSTASES, THE DESPOTIC THRONES, THE PULPITS, THE ICON STANDS, THE CIBORIUMS FOR THE EPITAPHS, THE LECTERNS, THE CANDELABRA, THE CANDLE STANDS AND THE SO MANY OTHER ACCESSORIES OF THE CHURCHES...IT HAS CONTINUED FROM THE 17TH CENTURY UP TO THIS DAY, AND HAS REACHED FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION INTO THE HANDS OF THE PRESENT DAY TALIADOROI. THE COMPANIES OF TALIADOROI AT METSOVO REACHED THE MOST REMOTE CITIES, IN ORDER TO UNDERTAKE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT WORKS OF WOOD SCULPTURE AND ACCORDINGLY RE-TRANSMIT THEIR ART... FROM THE NOTE BOOKS THAT THEY CARRIED IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THEY HAD A MAGNIFICENT GUILD ORGANISATION, WHILST FROM THE OTHER JOURNALS THAT THEY CARRIED WE HAVE CONCLUDED THAT THEY HAD AN ECCLESIASTICAL EDUCATION TOGETHER WITH THE DESIRE IN THE HEART, LIKE THOSE TREMORS IN THE HAGIOGRAPHERS, WHO ALWAYS CARRIED IN THEIR KNAPSACK A COPY OF THE INTERPRETATION OF THE ART OF PAINTING, AS WELL AS THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS».
Nevertheless, they all worked with artistic feeling and had the same passion for the work: «MAJOR OR MINOR CRAFTSMEN, THEY ALL WORKED WITH THE SAME PASSION AND THE SAME DESIRE OF BEAUTY. IN EACH COMPMANY THERE WAS A MASTER CRAFTSMAN WHO CREATED THE DESIGN, WHO CARVED THE MOST DIFFICULT SECTIONS AND WHO MONITORED THE WORK OF THE OTHERS».
The «sculptors» or the «taliadoroi» as the wood sculptors were mentioned elsewhere «WAS ALSO A SOUGHT AFTER SEPARATE SPECIALITY... THE WOOD SCULPTURED CEILINGS AND THE BUILT IN WARDROBES WERE A NECESSARY FEATURE IN THE MANSIONS AND MANY OF THE RESIDENCES OF THE LEADING CITIZENS. AT THE SERAGLIOS OF THE BEYS IN ALBANIA THE WOOD SCULPTOR DECORATOR REACHED THE HYPERBOLE DUE TO THE RIVALRY BETWEEN THEM. THEY ALSO SCULPTED ICONOSTASES FOR CHURCHES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE GREEK SPEAKING AREA. AT TOURNOVO THE PRODUCED FURNITURE WITH INSET IVORY, AS FOR EXAMPLE THE CHESTS AND THEY DID SILVER PLATING. THEIR PROFESSIONAL ORGANISATION WAS SIMILAR TO THAT FOR THE CEILING BUILDERS. NOT ONLY WERE THEY NEVER WITHOUT WORK, BUT THE BEST WERE OFTEN TAKEN BY FORCE BY THE BEYS, HOWEVER THEY WERE HANDSOMELY REWARDED. ACCORDINGLY SOME BECAME WEALTHY, EVEN WHERE ON THE LARGE PROJECTS THERE WERE 30 CRAFTSMEN AND ASSISTANTS... A SIMILAR LARGE GROUP WORKED ON THE SERAGLIO FOR THE TRIBAL CHIEF ABETIN AGA SIAGOU AT POGRANE OF KORYTSA...THE CRAFTSMEN WERE KNOWN AS KALPHADES AND THE ASSISTANTS / APPRENTICES AS TSIRAKIA».
FURTHERMORE, «...FOR THE VARIOUS NEEDS OF THE VILLAGES AND THE MONASTERIES THE EPIROT CRAFTSMEN WERE SUMMONED, ARCHITECTS, CRAFTSMEN, SCULPTORS, WOOD SCULPTORS (TAGIADOROI, AS THEY WERE KNOWN), PAINTERS, WHO UNDERTOOK ALL THE WORK AS PELION, AS WELL AS THROUGHOUT GREECE AND ABROAD... UNTIL THE END OF THE 18TH CENTURY AND LATER...».
Even in the other regions, such as at Euboea, «...IT HAS BEEN CONFIRMED THAT THERE WAS A MOVEMENT OF TEAMS (GUILDS) OF CRAFTSMEN INTO THE EUBOEA AREA, ESPECIALLY AFTER 1830, WHEN MATTERS HAD SETTLED DOWN. THE TEAMS (GUILDS) OF CRAFTSMEN FROM EPIRUS HAVE LEFT BEHIND SIGNIFICANT WORKS IN WOOD SCULPTURE, ARCHITECTURE, STONE SCULPTURE, BRIDGE BUILDING, CUSTOMS, ETC., AT EUBOEA». The iconostasis at the church of the Repose of the Virgin Mary at the present day village of Daphne (formerly Varybombi) was created by the company of the master craftsman G. Meranos from Metsovo. «THERE IS INTEREST IN RELATION TO THE COMPOSITION OF THE POPULATION AT BRYSE, BY THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT: ACCORDING TO TRADITION IT IS SAID THAT THE PRESENT DAY VILLAGE WAS SETTLED AFTER THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE IN 1821 BY 14 FAMILIES, WHO HAD COME FROM EPIRUS, SINCE SOME HAD ALREADY COME AND WERE EMPLOYED AS BUILDERS IN THE SURROUNDING REGION. THEY WERE NOT ONLY BUILDERS, BUT ALSO STONE SCULPTORS AND WOOD SCULPTORS AND PAINTERS AND CRAFTSMEN FROM OTHER TRADES. ASSUREDLY THESE FAMILIES HAD CONSTITUTED A GUILD OF CRAFTSMEN».
We must also not omit the role that was generally played by the guilds and the companies, amongst whom were also the wood sculptors with their journeys, in the renaissance of Greece. «...THE TRAVELLING ART, THE ITINERANT COTTAGE INDUSTRY, RE-TRANSMITTED THE NATIONAL CONSCIENCE, THE TRADITIONS AND CONSTITUTED A DETERRENT TO THE CONVERSION OF ISLAM FOR LARGE REGIONS IN NORTH GREECE, ESPECIALLY IN EPIRUS. THE ROLE THAT WAS PLAYED BY THE TRAVELLING CRAFTSMAN, BUILDER, COOPER (BAYENAS) AND TIN SMITH (ALEIPHIAS) WAS GREATER. THE ELDERS, THE LANDOWNERS, THE FARMERS AND THE UNSKILLED WERE MORE EASILY CONVERTED TO ISLAM, SOME IN ORDER NOT TO FALL FROM THE RULING CLASS, OTHERS SO AS NOT TO LOSE THEIR LARGE ESTATES AND PRIVILEGES, THEIR FIELDS AND THEIR PEACE. AND THE SAME WITH THE UNSKILLED, IN ORDER TO GAIN EMPLOYMENT; HOWEVER THE TRAVELLING CRAFTSMEN WHO WERE DISPERSED, MOBILE AND SPREAD OUT THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE TURKISH DOMAIN HAD NOT FEAR OF LOSING THEIR PROPERTY ASSETS SINCE THEIR MAIN ASSET WAS THEIR ART AND FURTHERMORE, THE CONQUEROR HAD THEIR NEED AND NOT VICE VERSA, WERE NOT CONVERTED TO ISLAM».
With these movements through the regions of the Balkans as well as elsewhere, as well as the creation of renowned works, it was not rare to encounter the phenomenon OF WORKS BY GREEK WOOD SCULPTORS BEING APPROPRIATED BY NEIGHBOURING PEOPLE. «WORKSHOPS OR INDIVIDUAL WOOD SCULPTOR ARTISTS WERE BEING INVITED TO UNDERTAKE THE CREATION OF LARGE WORKS AT THE ORTHODOX CHURCHES OUTSIDE OF GREECE, AS AT SERBIA, BULGARIA AND RUMANIA, WHERE EVEN TO THIS DAY WORKS IN THE GREEK (MACEDONIAN) STYLE CAN BE FOUND... THE BULGARIAN AUTHORS HAVE WANTED TO ASSERT THAT THE RENOWNED WOOD SCULPTURED ICONOSTASES, PULPITS, DESPOTIC THRONES, ETC, WHICH ARE TO BE FOUND IN THE PRESENT DAY BULGARIAN CHURCHES, E.G. AT PHILIPPOUPOLIS, AT TYRNOVO, AT STENEMACHON, AT SISTOVON, AT ELBASAN AND ELSEWHERE, WERE THE WORKS OF SELF TAUGHT BULGARIAN CRAFTSMEN. HOWEVER, IT IS CERTAIN THAT THESE WORKS HAVE BEEN CREATED BY GREEK CRAFTSMEN, SINCE IT CAN BE DEMONSTRATED BY THE FACT THAT THE PRECISELY SAME WOOD SCULPTURED DECORATIVE BY THE BULGARIAN WOOD SCULPTORS HAVE ALSO BEEN ENCOUNTERED IN GREEK CHURCHES, ESPECIALLY ON THE GREEK ISLANDS, IN ASIA MINOR, AND EVEN IN SYRIA, WHERE THERE WERE NO BULGARIANS. THE CHURCHES IN BULGARIA HAVE BEEN DECORATED BY THE GREEK COMMUNITIES IN THE 18TH AND THE 19TH CENTURY».
We have also recognized the same problem during a journey to present day Skopia, where very luxurious editions have been circulating with the corresponding content in relation to the iconostases at Monasteri and at Achrida, to name but a few.
In relation to this matter, namely the Greek ness of many works in these regions, we shall add that there is a multitude of agreements between the church curates and the wood sculptors as well as other documents of the Greek communities in the region, which verify that the wood sculptures in those regions had been created by Greek craftsmen who had travelled there. The same has also been verified by the inscriptions on the icons of the iconostases as well as by the similarity in the style of these wood sculptures to the corresponding Greek works.
Accordingly the wood sculptors travelled everywhere, like the various guilds that made trips to every corner of the Greek speaking area as well as the whole of the Balkans, Asia Minor, Russia and elsewhere, until recently (1950), where they produced renowned works for the churches and the residences of the wealthy beys and others. This fact indicates that the tradition has been continued, as we have verified that is happened until recently with the guilds of the craftsmen from the Pyrsogianne craft villages.