Before we visited Tinos, I didn’t know what a ‘Feggite’ was. Once there, the mystery was solved, as that was the Greek name for what we call ‘fanlights’, a semicircular architectural feature above doors to let in a little more light and air.
In Greek it is a Φεγγίτες, and although other Cycladic islands have a few, the island of Tinos specializes in Feggites. Almost everywhere you go, almost every shop or house has some form of this decoration above the doors.
Fanlights have been used in many countries for hundreds of years, but the Tinians have taken this art to a whole new level. Back in the 16th and 17th century, the designs included simple circles, squares and other geometric forms. Over the years, these simple designs morphed into birds, dolphins and other animals, sometimes an owner’s coat of arms or other distinguishing feature.
As Tinos is the ‘art’ centre of the Cyclades Island, you find beautiful examples of Feggites, almost always carved out of marble, although I did hear of one in ceramic. Tinos has a wonderful Marble Museum in the village of Pyrgos, well worth visiting if you ever go to Tinos. The museum covers a lot of the history of marble quarrying and carving over the years. Like several of the Cycladic Islands, Tinos has it’s own marble quarries, and the museum illustrates how it was done in years past, with excellent videos of locals showing how they cut great slabs of marble out of the mountain with hand tools, and transported them to their studios.
When we first visited Tinos, I had signed up for a marble carving course by Master Carver, Petros Dellatolas, and his wife Annette Fougnies. I was really looking forward to this course, but after the preliminary training, I had no idea what I would carve. Annette assured me “Don’t worry, Greece will speak to you”. Sure enough, after I learned a few things about carving, and seeing the many Feggites around the island, I decided to carve a Feggite, one of my own design. Petros cut me a large semi-circular slab of marble, and after I sketched out a design back where we were staying that evening, and away I started. Luckily, Petros let me use some of the air-powered tools, which made the carving a lot easier. Details of this adventure are described in my Travel Tale, “Marble Carving on Tinos”.
We have been back to Tinos several times, to what I always call ‘a diamond in the rough’, an island full of art and culture, and who now celebrate a food and wine festival every year in May. The restaurants and tavernas take great care to serve their favourite recipes, often old family recipes of authentic Greek food, sometimes with a ‘Tinian twist’, not just the standard tourist fare you might see elsewhere. Something else to think about in your plans!
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