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      Σχοινούσα (5/3/2006 v.1) Schoinousa (5/4/2006 v.1)

Author(s) : Fragouli Dimitra (3/31/2005)
Translation : Papaioannou Helen (11/1/2006)

For citation: Fragouli Dimitra, "Schoinousa", 2006,
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1. People and Geography

Schinousa is part of the Small Eastern Cyclades, and is south of Naxos and north east of Irakleia. The island is hilly and has a number of picturesque coves Tsigouri, Livadi, Psili Amos and others. The highest point of the island is Milos at 133 m. the whole island is just 8.14 sq km and a population of 206 people. The residents of the island are mostly farmers and are divided between three main villages, Panaghia or Chora, Mesaria and the harbour village of Mersini or Mersinia.

The island got its name from the plant schino that flourishes on the island or in an alternative version from the Venetian noble Schinoza. I Ragavis mentions the name of the island “ quote” a deserted island close to Naxos reported under Pliviouas having the ancient name that it got from the abundant schino there. However the island has also been known by other names Echinousa and Pandia. It is now part of the prefecture of Naxos.

2. History

There is little information to help make a record of the islands history, what there is comes from references in administrative or dioceses records of neighbouring islands like Naxos and Amorgos. However we know that the island has been inhabited since ancient times and archaeological finds show it probably played its part in the creation of the Protocycladic culture, the centre of which was on neighbouring Keros.

During the Byzantium period the island had significant trade activity as is shown by the enormous number of Byzantium ceramic remains. From the end of the 11th C. the island came under the jurisdiction of the Monastery of Hozoviotissa in Amorgos. Later it became part of the Aegean Duchy ruled by Marcus Sanoudo. In 1537 Hayreddin Barbarosa occupied Naxos and Schinousa became part of the Ottoman Empire. At certain times in its history the inhabitants deserted it entirely, mostly because of pirate raids. Schinousa became part of the New Greek State, as did the rest of the Cyclades, after the London Protocol of 1829.

It appears that throughout the Ottoman period the island remained uninhabited and people only began to live there again in the middle of the 19th C. The new inhabitants of Schinousa, who worked the land or raised livestock, were mainly from Amorgos. During the 20th C. many people left for Athens for a better life. From 1941 to 1944, as were the rest of the Cyclades, Schinousa was occupied first by the Italians 1941-1943 then by the Germans until the liberation in 1944.

After the War its isolation and the economic, social and educational needs of its inhabitants meant once again that many were forced to leave to seek a better way of life.

Only in the last two decades have people returned and even though there are still problems there has been improvement to the infrastructure such as improved transport to the island and a new heliport which have helped develop the tourist industry. New high school facilities have contributed to more young families remaining resident on the island. Today residents work as farmers of land and livestock, builders or are employed in the tourist industry.

3. Traditional and Modern Architecture

In general the island’s buildings are typical of others in the Cyclades. They are in harmony with the geomorphology, the climate and practical needs while using available materials and well known building methods.

In the past the island was under continual attack from pirates, so villages were built on hills in order to have a good view of the sea and so make surprise attacks more difficult.

In earlier times houses were built by local craftsmen with the help of the owners and their relations using local materials such as stone, reeds, seaweed and soil. The common houses consisted of a basic unit, a rectangular covered space, the monohoro, a simple living space for the inhabitants and their goods. Starting from this basic shape, over a period of time, the inside would be divided and the outside built on to outwards and upwards. When the building went upwards a new type of building was created, the anokatogo, which is the most typical of these villages. This creates an overall appearance of white geometric shapes where no surface is flat and where no line is continuous.

Schinousa’s main settlement is Panaghias. Its houses are built one next to the other with no space between them, leaving only two sides open for an entrance and a tiny court yard.

4. Archaeological sites

From archaeological finds on both land and in the sea, such as statues, marble pillars, and the ancient remains of Mesaria, there seems to have been cultural activity on the island from ancient times. There is particular interest in the area around the church of the Holy Cross Timio Stavro at Tsigouri. In the same area under the medieval village Helenistic and Roman remains have been found. In addition at Tsigouri, Ag Vassilious and Prophite Ilias remains have been found of early Christian Basilicas. In the south east of the island there are the remains of a medieval tower from the Venetian domination period.

5. Festivals, folk culture and societies

Major festivals are celebrated on the island with traditional festivities for The Annunciation of the Virgin (25th March), the Assumption of the Virgin (15th August) and The Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple (21 November). The most important of these is the celebration of The Presentation of the Virgin Mary to the Temple at the church of Panaghia Akathgi (the standing Virgin) which gets it name from the unusual pose of the virgin in the icon from the standing hymn. The name of the main village or Chora is also Panaghia.

Schinousa is well known for the talent of its many traditional dancers and musicians.

The society of Schinousa was founded in 1938 by people from the island living in Athens who wanted to maintain relationships with others from the island and uphold their customs. The members became inactive during the 2nd World War and all records were destroyed. From 1961 the society resumed activity under a new name The Society of Athenian Schinousians. In 1987 after the modification of the statute and in agreement of residents of the island and other Schinousians in Greece and abroad the name was changed to the Society of Schinousians.




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