© Eastern Macedonia – Thrace Region
A city that functions as a live monument of architecture and urban design, prospered in the late Byzantine period for strategic reasons and in the end of the 19th century and the beginnings of the 20th for tobacco trade. A big part of the city of Xanthi consists of a preserved traditional settlement with an authentic conserved construction, many mansions and important buildings. In the northern part, at the fortified position, we meet the Old Xanthi, the part of the extant part of the Byzantine fortified city. The rest part is an important part of the gradual expansion of the city during the post Byzantine period till the beginnings of the 20th century. The traditional settlement was notably reconstructed after 1830 after the damages that were caused by the earthquakes in 1923. The constructed environment of Xanthi is characterized by history and intercultural nature contributing to the spaces’ composition. A variety of architectural types and a creative synthesis of many different aesthetic influences define the morphology of the traditional settlement and the monuments. The biggest and oldest architectural works of the city are the Byzantine fortifications with parts of the acropolis, preserved at the peak of the hill of the Pamegisti Taxiarches monastery in the northern side of the city. The acropolis was connected with the greater fortification system of the city and its urban design –according to Chr. Melkidi. The contemporary road axis starting from the Pigmalioans Christidis street to the water tower (Ouzoun sokak = long road according to the Ottoman designation), crosses the Old Xanthi, from north to south, in a way proportionate to the one the Byzantine or Royal road connected the main gate of the walls with the acropolis. According to Nikos Moutsopoulos, the extant central church of the Pamegisti Taxiarches monastery is dated on the 9th century according to its petal shaped type of the middle niche in the eastern side of the building and belongs to the type of fortifications’ architecture. The western European urban planning unit –fortified city/castle in the old Byzantine fortified settlement- is a very important architectural work. It has a roman (French and Italian) architectural typology, construction and morphology and according to Chr. Melkidi it was built by the crusaders of the fourth crusade leaded by the Godefreido Vileardouino during 1204 to 1225. It had a fortified core with three fortified surrounding walls in a four sided shape. The fortified cell with the most recent buildings over the old ones and are preserved till today -along with the visible parts of the third fortified surrounding wall.
The central square of the city was also the open air weekly market in the Ottoman period around which the traditional Islamic center was shaped after the upgrade of the city to a capital one of the homonymous county in 1870. The extant clock tower, a monument of change in the production relations of the city and of the effort for modernization of the Ottoman empire, is dated in the same period and it was devoted to the Chatzi Emin Aga from an aristocrat from Xanthi.
The churches of the old city are in basilica type and were reconstructed in the first half of the 19th century over the old ones. The Dodeka Apostoli church is a monument of the second half of the 19th century. The mosques of the city (spaces for Sunni Muslim praying) are architectural works built between the 16th century (Achrian mosque) to the beginnings of the 20th century according to the typology of the classical and late Ottoman period. There is a Bektashi opium den (a space for heterodox Bektashi Muslims) and a Sunni opium den of Mevlevi or Naksibedi where the mufti of Xanthi is housed (=religious authority of the local Muslim community). There is a bath of Ottoman architectural typology and morphology built in the 16th century and still extant in a housing at the back of the Metropolitan Hall of Xanthi.
The tobacco warehouses of Xanthi were built in 1860 and afterwards. They have a characteristic architectural structure, influenced by the western European industrial architecture of the end of the 19th century. They are important works that influenced the history and physiognomy of the city affecting the morphology of the secular and sacred buildings, like the mosque of the Skra street and the mendeses (seminary) of the Soune mosque. 15 of these works are characterized as “preservable” till today. Only a few of the 55 chania (caravanserai) that Xanthi had are preserved till today.
The aesthetic influences of the recent period are traced in the impressive compositions at the buildings of the traditional settlement and at the religious monuments of all religions: the traditional Thracian architecture and that of the greater northern Greek and Balkan space, the baroque influence, the rococo, the turkobaroque, neoclassicism, gothic and western European industrial architecture of the 19th century. Concluding, important and remarkable samples of the refugee house with often modernist influences -that is the urban architecture of the refugee’s residence- are preserved at the corresponding areas of the refugee districts at the northwestern side of the center of the city.
Sources: Chr. Melkidi, “Observations on the urban design of the traditional settlement of Xanthi”, Thrakika Chronika, Xanthi v.43, 1989. id, “Social rearrangements and their effects on the urban design evolution in Xanthi, Thrakika Chronika, Xanthi v.45, 1991. id, Muslim monuments of Xanthi and their contribution to the evolution of urban planning of the city. PhD Thesis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Polytechnic School, October 1999.
I. Bıçakçı, Yunanistan’da Türk mimari eserleri, Constantinople: Islam Tarih, Sanat ve Kulturunu Arastirma Vakfi, 2003. P. Georgantzis. The holy worships of Xanthi. H.M of Xanthi Publications, 1980. id, “The chania of Xanthi and their contribution city’s shaping”, Thrakika Chronika, Xanthi v.38, 1995. id, A contribution to the history of Xanthi, Xanthi, 1976. Å. Papathanasiou, “Baths of the Ottoman years at the old town of Xanthi”, Peri Thrakis, Publication of the Center for culture and development of Thrace, v.3 2003, pp.285-295. D. Mandalozis, G. Roukounis, M. Gianopoulou-Roukouni, “The tobacco warehouses of Xanthi”, Thrakika Chronika, Xanthi v.45, 1991. V. Mirmiroglou, Dervishesé, Ekati publications, Athens. Holy Church of Xanthi and Perithorio and Mufti of Xanthi, Religious monuments in Xanthi’s prefecture. Publications of the Eastern Macedonia – Thrace region, Xanthi 2005.