The beautiful Greek island of Tínos is one of the islands which make up the Cyclades – other islands in the group include Mykonos, Santorini and Naxos. When you visit Tínos, you must be certain to travel to the heart of the island and see the ornate architectural dovecotes which dot the countryside.
Evidence of dove breeding dates from as far back as the Ancient Egyptian Empire. In classical times, too, the very prolific and easily fattened birds, whose flesh was considered tasty and very healthy, were kept in tall, free-standing towers. Their religious significance – from the cult of the Phoenician Astarte through to that of Aphrodite right up to the Christian symbol of the Holy Ghost – did nothing to alter this.
The Venetians, who ruled on Tínos from 1207 to 1715, and thus longer than on any other island in the Aegean, are said to have introduced intensive pigeon breeding. Construction of the first towers dates back to at least this time. Although they are found on other islands in the Cyclades, there are more than a hundred examples of the attractively ornate constructions on Tínos, and they have become an architectural symbol of the island.
You come across them unexpectedly on the terraced fields in the countryside, mainly in the vicinity of the former Venetian fortress and island capital on Mount Exoboúrgo, in the heart of the island. Sadly, the tradition of building such dovecotes has died out, but they are an excellent example of a not only harmonious, but also a visually attractive combination of functional and decorative architecture. The upper area of the sides of the rectangular towers that are sheltered from the wind contain entrance holes, concealed behind geometric patterns, for the doves to fly in through. The birds are thus relatively safe from their natural enemies such as snakes or birds of prey. The extremely varied patterns created with the affixed slate or clay tiles are based on the basic shape of the triangle and help give each tower its unique appearance.
A truly delightful visual experience.