The properties of Kambos were surrounded by high stone walls. These enclosures were mostly to ensure that the family had its privacy and could not be seen by passers-by. But they had also a functional use, protecting the cultivations from dust, sea droplets, as well as thieves. The wall was either built in the cloisonné masonry, a byzantine technique where small bricks were placed in between the stones or plastered. On the inside, the walls had columns for support. These enclosures, interwoven with the centuries-old boundaries of the properties, mainly ensured the privacy of the inhabitants from the point of view of passers-by. They also protected the crops from dust, the sea urchin and the riders (thieves). On the inside of these walls there were columns (built columns).
The walls that were surrounding the fields were constructed with chiselled stones on the outside and rubble wall on the inside.
They sloped down on top, so the water could run off. At the top of the wall they placed a frame, while the “crotch” which was triangular, made of lime or sparkler, to remove water, was filled with broken glasses for safety reasons.
The gates of Kambos were an important element of the architecture of the mansions. They were the main and only entrance to the courtyard and the building. The gates were impressive and reflected the wealth and the power of each family. They are the main and only entrance to the courtyard and consequently to the building. The gates are so impressive that they reflect the wealth and power of each family.
They had an arched lintel (supportive beam) that was more than three metres high. They were made of red and yellow stones. In almost all the gates, the arches were semi-circular, and the walls had red and white stones. There were various ways of finishing the gate at the top. The most usual way was a triangular roof, covered with plaster so that water could run off. Another way was to build a stone cornice and then an inclined stone finial (crowning ornament). A rarer way was two rows of standing pointing stones, like the central gate at the estate of Argentis. from ground level. In almost all the gates the arches have a semicircular shape. Their walls have red and yellow gemstones, while in many doors their masonry has red colors. Finishing at the top of the gate is done in several ways. The most common is the triangular roof coated with sparks to let the water go. Another way is, after the stone cornice is built first, then a sloping stone crown is added. One last rare way of crowning the gate is to finish with a double row of upright pointed stones free from each other, such as the main door on the Argenti estate.
Above the keystoneof the arch was a stone relief with the coat of arms of each family. If the family had no coat of arms, they would put a saint, the initials of the owner or some other representation. When the gates were next to a stream, a ramp was created that led to the entrance, where there was also a small balcony. In the cases where the gates were located on the banks of streams, there were ramps, which ended at the entrance and there were formed into small balconies.
The gates were large, to allow animals to pass, especially horses and mules that were needed for the fields. The panels of the gate were always double, wooden in older times, iron more recently. The surfaces of the panels had decorations with bronze details. The bronze handles and locks were also very elaborate, giving the impression of a castle gate. The doors of the door were always two, made older than wood, but also iron in recent years. The surfaces of the leaves were decorated with bronze details (nails, etc.). The brass handles, knocks and locks were also intricately crafted, giving the appearance of a castle door.
The gates are preserved today more or less as they were. The newer mansions however – those of the 19th and 20th century – have impressive iron gates with railings. This allows the traveller to admire the architecture of the courtyard, as it is no longer hidden. In newer mansions, however, mainly of the 19th and 20th centuries, the gate is a large imposing iron door with railings. The difference with the standard gate described above is that this type of door allows the traveler to see and admire the architecture of the courtyard and not to be hidden behind its large volume.
On either side of a traditional gate of Kambos,one can see two square stones called skarpes, that were used by people to mount animals more easily. These were useful in the winter when the streets were wet and muddy. Some of these stones had two or three steps three feet above ground. The upper step was usually marble or made of a hard stone from Erythrae, in Asia Minor (Pikionis 2000). Often, small seating areas were built outside the gates for temporary stops or rest. The use of these stones was especially necessary in winter when the roads were wet and muddy. Some stones had 2 or 3 steps of which the upper step was 3 feet above the ground. The top slab of these terraces is often marble or made of hard stone, resistant to disintegration, from Eritrea in Asia Minor (Pikionis, 2000). Quite often, small living rooms were built outside the gates for a temporary stop and rest.
Nowadays, the street lies higher, and it is no longer easy to understand the function that the skarpes and the sitting areas had during the orchards’ heyday.
Stone and pebble flooring
Photo Credits: Loukianos Giannis, The pebble courtyards of the Aegean: a travelogue in the courtyards of Chios, Mytilene, Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands, Spetses and Crete, Athens 1999
The older courtyards of the mansions were paved with slabs of the local stone of Thymiana village. The paving in the courtyards but also in the footpaths around the orchard were made of stone slabs that created motifs. The usual technique was to use red and yellow interchanging slabs, put diagonally. Today, there are courtyards that are paved with stone slabs, like the mansion of Konidou and the Riziko guesthouse, among others.
The courtyards of Kambos, however, in mansions as well as in public buildings, are famous for the pebble floors, or liladota as they are known in Chios. The liladota are big surfaces paved with pebbles, bound together with a strong mortar called astrakia. They are created by talented craftsmen, called Astrakarides. In other words, these are large surfaces that are paved with sea pebbles and a very powerful hydraulic mortar (astrakia) by excellent craftsmen, the so-called Astrakarides.
These mosaics were in the courtyards of churches, of mansions and in the footpaths inside the orchards. Often, these black and white pebbles were used to cover the ground around the pulley, as well as the central path of the orchard. Often, these white and black sea pebbles cover the soil around the manganese, as well as the central alley of the orchard.
The pebble floors of Kambos gave a luxurious feel to the courtyard and evoked admiration. But there was also a function to it, as they separated private from public spaces. However, they are also governed by rules of functionality since they separated the private from the public space.
Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1881 destroyed many of the pebble paved courtyards. Today, the remaining floors in the courtyards of the mansions and of the churches are threatened by the roots of the trees that create stability problems and endanger this rich decoration. Today, the remaining floors in the courtyards of mansions and churches are threatened by the roots of the trees, which create static problems, with the risk of destroying this rich decoration.
The technique of the pebble floors was easy to copy, but the chosen motifs had to do with the social status of the owner and his own taste, so they were usually unique. The subjects chosen were often floral or geometric. However, their theme (pattern) was related to the social class of the homeowner and his sensibilities in matters of decoration and art, which is why it was often unique. The themes presented in the Chian floors are decorative, floral or geometric.
The local technicians, that were coming mainly from the two neighbouring villages of Thymiana and Neochori, selected and implemented the designs of the pebble floors. They used symbolic subjects from the byzantine tradition or Ancient Greece, like the two-headed eagle, the meander pattern, the flowering vine, and others. Other subjects were taken from everyday life, like birds, animals, flowers, dolphins, and boats. Finally, some subjects originated from folk tradition, like mermaids, dragons, or cypress trees.
In Kambos, the pebbles in the courtyards were black and white. Picking up the pebbles was a tiring procedure; the technicians themselves chose them one by one. The black pebbles came only from one beach called Emborios, in Southern Chios. The white ones came from Kamari beach, in Aghia Fotia, close to Neochori. Rarely, there are coloured (grey or red) pebbles in the patterns of the courtyards. Picking pebbles is a laborious process, as they were collected one by one from the beach by the carpenters themselves. The black pebbles were taken from a beach, Emporio in South Chios. The white pebbles were collected from Kamari beach in Agia Fotia near Nechori. More rarely we see in pebble yard designs and colored (gray or red) pebbles.