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Aug 11
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Kambos

Location

Kambos is located south of the city of Chios, encompassing an area of seven kilometers in length and of approximately two kilometers in width. The literal translation of the word Kambos is "plane" (like a leveled surface).

This, however, does not depict at all the splendor of this unique ensemble of agricultural settlements on the island. Even in the past 300 to 200 years, the descriptions of historians about the mansions and orchards at Kambos have always been enthusiastic.

Mansions of high architectural quality and auxiliary buildings are equal in number with the estates and elaborate reservoirs, pebble-paved yards, wells and citrus orchards. The land is covered with forest-like gardens and orchards of orange-, mandarin-, lemon- and bitter orange-trees, which flourish behind tall protective walls. Each individual estate is dominated by an old house of stately appearance, whose impressive structure is characterized by a series of combinations of architectural forms and features connected with the various historical periods of the island.

In the old Kambos houses and mansions, gateways are just one element of the architectural characteristics. They normally lead from the road to the courtyard, although in some cases they lead from the grove to the courtyard. Such gateways are ornamented and reveal a tendency of the owners to try to raise their social status by adding originality to these structures. Today, those proud gateways and stone walls are collapsing and shady orchards are transformed into lots on which conventional houses are built.

In contrary to what the the tall, depressing-looking walls might indicate, the world behind them is one of joy, with pleasant yards, comfortable houses, leafy lanes and blooming gardens. The colored stone of Thymiana was used as the basis of a unique style in building, which is mostly classical and rather similar to the Italian one. The houses were two or three-stored so that the central rooms could have an uninhibited view over the trees, with wide stairs outside and ample room for every use.

Over the course of time, various cultures have dominated Chios, thereby reinforcing the fact that the island has been the crossroad for many civilizations and a connection between the east and the west. Kambos has a history of civilizations that have swept through its estates and evidence of the foreign influence has been engraved within its buildings, stone walls and family coat of arms made of marble above each estates entrance. Its history dates back to the ancient Byzantium. Events that influenced life in Kambos such as the islands conquerors, the Genoans and the Turks, the massacre of 1822 and the terrible earthquake from 1881, followed the Byzantines.

Despite all these disasters, conquests and changes that took place in Kambos and all of Chios, the village managed to preserve its character from the 14th century until our days. In fact, the prosperity of Kambos is attributed to the Genoese domination dating from 1346 to 1566, when the Genoese took advantage of the plentiful water deposits in the soil contained within the Kambos area. While doing so, at the same time they introduced the islands inhabitants to the systematic cultivation of the trees, thereby increasing their wealth. As a result of this wealth, initially generated in the 14th century, the prosperity of the village is even today still evident. Within the limits of Kambos are approximately 200 historical estates, each displaying a splendorous mansion with auxiliary buildings, wheel powered wells, cisterns, pebble paved courtyards and orchards.

Especially the Byzantine architecture appears to have the eldest influence on the buildings of Kambos, with the exception of the structure known as "Kamenos Pirgos" (The burnt tower), which is believed by tradition to have been built during the Byzantine years. No other example of 'pure' Byzantine architecture has been preserved for past generations. Features of this architecture, however, can be found in many buildings, although after the Treaty of Nympheou in 1261, and particularly after the final occupation of Chios by the Genoese in 1346, the local architecture was influenced by the new invaders.

After the arrival of the Genoese, a new style of local architectural tradition gradually began to develop, continuing even after 1566, when the Turks occupied the island. Therefore, the influence of the Ottoman Empire in this intermixing of architectural features should not be overlooked, particularly with the Baroque style.

Most of the Catholic population left the island after the unsuccessful expedition of the Venetians in 1694-1695, and the local elements of the population prospered and flourished without breaking bonds with the West. Apart from other consequences of this financial boom on the island, the desire also aroused for social projection through the means of architecture.

The 18th century marks the peak of prosperity for Kambos and the island in general. The most prominent traits of the local traditional civilization then appeared. Later, the savage massacre that took place in 1822 literally annihilated the population and the buildings. Fustel de Coulanges, who visited Chios in 1856, wrote: "The Turks did not cause the catastrophe in a moment of anger, but with cold blooded coolness, destroying one house at a time systematically with patient cruelty, thus exterminating all that was most valued in Greece."

After 1822, the few that were left of the population gradually returned and rebuilt from the ruins where their homes once stood - but the grandeur of the rest was totally lost. The 'final blow' came with the great earthquake of 1881, which forced the last of the original landowners of the Kambos estates to sell their properties and depart.

From this brief historic review it is obvious that after so many disasters very few buildings retain their original form or appearance, and, since the original proprietors of these estates deceased, consequently there is no one to offer any information. However, in pursuing its aims, the Cultural society of Kambos tries to encourage sporadic individual efforts to save what has survived in the region and tries to stress the importance of preserving the environment, its architecture and the traditional heritage. Therefore, today, in an effort to preserve this cultural inheritance, renovations have been completed and inhabitants have either taken up permanent residence or utilize the estates as lodges. As a result, the residence character of the Kambos mansions survived in a great extend, and in addition almost all the orchards are being cultivated again.

According to the topographic diagram 1:5.000 and beyond it, up to one property width, the area within Kambos' current limits has been identified as an historical location (paradosiakos ikismos), thus limiting construction and renovation within the area. Renovations must be performed by taking into consideration the protective legislature of the area.