Greece Houses on Cliffs - Cycladic Architecture and the Amazing Charm of the History

Today, Greece cannot be imagined without snow-white houses and churches that rise above the sea from the rocky island shores! But if you think that the Greek islands looked like this 300 and 500 years ago, then you are wrong. Find out how it all began and discover the stunning paradise of Santorini architecture history, delving into a world of uniqueness.

The Origin and History of the Island of the Cave City

Santorini

Santorini is an island with a rich history. Researchers claim that people have inhabited this island since Neolithic times. About 3200 BC the Cretans lived on the island. Their influence became evident during the excavations of Akrotiri - they found a village with an identical architecture of houses that were dug up in the Minoan palace in Crete.

At that time, due to its shape, the island was called Strongyle or Strongili, which means "round" in Greek. But 1500 BC. everything has changed. The peaceful course of life of the ancient world was interrupted by the monstrous explosion of a volcano, which was located in the very center of the island. As a result, most of the island sank, forming the famous caldera (the largest in the world). The island has ceased to be round, and the small islands that have formed around the perimeter are now called Santorini, Aspronisi, and Thirassia.

In 1956, excavations began at Akrotiri. A team of archaeologists led by Spyros Marinatos uncovered a well-preserved city that was completely buried under volcanic ash. The tidal wave from the eruption was so huge that it reached Crete (70 nautical miles, for a minute). Many scientists believe that the explosion caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization. And someone seriously thinks that it was there, in the unique caldera of Santorini, that Atlantis sank.

What about blue-domed church facts? After the explosion, the Dorians settled on the island and named it Thera, after their king.

Christianity came to the island only in the 3rd century AD. An important monument of that period is the small, elegant church of Panagia. During the same period, the crusaders changed the name of the island to Santorini, building a small chapel of Agia Irene.

Cycladic Style and Architecture

architecture of santorini

Windows and doors in 50 shades of blue against the backdrop of snow-white facades are a feature of the Cycladic house's style. The Cycladic style is called this because it originated on the Cycladic islands (in Greece) in the Aegean Sea. The Cycladic style dominates the territory of three dozen islands that are part of the Cycladic group. Santorini architecture in blue is the most visited by tourists. It should be noted right away that the white paint that is used to paint most of the island houses in the Cyclades is not painted at all, but a whitewash well known to us. One of the obvious reasons why white is used in architecture not only in Greece, but also in many other countries with hot climates, is that it reflects sunlight, so the room does not heat up that much. But specifically in Greece, there were also reasons for the massive use of white.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, Cycladic architecture looked different: Santorini Greece houses here were painted in bright contrasting colors, and this tradition was rooted in the distant ancient era. However, starting in the 1880s, homeowners massively began to use whitewash for external painting: it was cheap and also served as a natural antiseptic. Since 1930, local authorities have banned the use of any other type of paint for new buildings. From now on, all Greek island architecture houses were to be erected only by whites - in this way they tried to establish architectural uniformity here. 

The combination of blue and white, which is also present on the flag of the country, has over time turned into a real "trademark" of Greece, so today many owners of hotels, houses, and villas use them in their exterior design, guided by the wishes of tourists, and not by the rules of law. As a result, not only blue windows and doors but also gates, stairs, and garden furniture.

“Blue on White” or the Special Charm of Santorini

santorini architecture blue domes

Why are the houses in Santorini white and the roofs blue? The Greece houses on cliffs were painted this way for a reason. True, there are two different versions, one political, the other mystical.

According to one version, during the Second World War, when the Germans who occupied the island forbade proud Greeks to fly Greek flags, the inhabitants of Santorini painted their houses in the colors of the Greek flag (blue and white) overnight.

And for the superstitious, this is an option: restless souls do not want to fly away to heaven but strive to penetrate the earth, into houses.

What if it brings misfortune to the house? Sky-blue roofs are designed to disorient evil spirits, let them think that this is the sky, get confused, and fly away.

Features in the Construction of Houses in Santorini

santorini architecture

Every traveler dreams of admiring the incredible island of Santorini. All houses are made of lava stone and do not have more than 3 floors. This is due to the presence of a dormant volcano nearby and, of course, a seismically active zone. Most often, the steps of one house will lead to the roof of another, and the roof itself will act as a veranda for the site above the stairs.

This Santorini construction cannot be confused with anything - their streamlined white configurations, ladders, and terraces, the complete absence of roofs, only blue domes of churches. The Santorini buildings here are multi-level, you can never say how many floors there are in the house - two or three. Special specifics and their own rules in construction, a floor area at ground level, then another compartment is half a floor higher, and then another half a floor is up, and you go to the next level. 

Do not confuse triangular ornaments, shelves, and stands made of stone. In the bedrooms and living rooms to this day, they make built-in beds and sofas, which look like an ordinary rectangle of concrete, whitewashed and covered with wood. A mattress or pillows are placed on top of it and the furniture is ready. The stone decoration is of great importance to the function of the stone house on the shore in Greece. 

cycladic architecture

The stone protects houses from moisture, cold, heat, it is durable, it does not need to be plastered or whitewashed. Houses built entirely of stone today are rare in Greece, there are few craftsmen who know how to properly build stone houses. Island houses often have smaller windows on the north side, and open verandas and terraces are erected on the south side - the north winds are much colder.

Many Santorini-style houses are built into the ground. What does it mean? First of all, the additional room at the bottom allows you to create space for storing various kinds of household items and conservation. Also, these rooms serve as a kind of air conditioning in the hot season. At the same time, the soil reduces temperature drops and keeps warm in winter, which allows local residents to save on heating costs.

The light-colored walls and sloping roofs of the houses are specially created to reflect the rays of the sun, which is very active here in the summer months. The roof in all buildings on the island is very thin, and the walls of the houses are as compacted as possible. This technology is used specifically to ensure that buildings survive in the event of a strong earthquake.

We are convinced that you should definitely immerse yourself in the history of one of the most famous places in the world. Try to travel to sunny Greece, namely Santorini, with us.

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