Pyrgi, a village in the southern Mastichochoria region of the Greek island of Chios, is perhaps unique in all of Europe for its extensive preservation of a Renaissance Italian design called sgraffito. Sgraffito is characterized by its contrasting colors created by shading layers of applied plaster. Usually, the layers of plaster are tinted shades of gray, so sgraffito designs are recognizable by their distinct black and white color scheme.
Pyrgi was founded before the 10th century, but was extensively colonized by the Genoese Italians during their occupation of Chios from 1304 to 1566. The Genoese spread the sgraffito design to the island during this time. The cultural legacy of the Genoese is well preserved by the locals of Pyrgi, as evidenced by their continued use of sgraffito in local constructions, as well as their perpetuation of the legend that the explorer Christopher Colombus, of whose birth it is only known that he was raised in ‘Genoan territory’, was born in the village.
The sgraffito technique is so popular that even important public buildings, such as the local branch of the national bank, the local pharmacy, and the main church, are covered in the style.
Like most of Greece, the culture of Pyrgi cannot be represented by a single style or period. The village also preserves the Byzantine culture that largely defines the culture of the island of Chios on the whole. The Byzantine culture is represented by the Church of the Holy Apostles, originally built around the 14th century and renovated during the Genoese period in 1564. Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures of the frescoes on the inside of the church, which were painted in 1665. The church was designed as a miniature version of the Katholikon of Nea Moni, a famous church at the monastery of Nea Moni, build in the middle of the 11th century.
The house in which Christopher Columbus was purportedly born is designated today by the locals. As stated above, the legend that he was born here, although unlikely, cannot be disputed by fact as the only source on Columbus’ early life comes from his own statement in which he said that he was born ‘inside of Genoese territory’.