N OUTLINE HISTORY OF GORITSA
notes & references in the end
( map courtesy of Nikos C.aravasos)
The emergence of the sister villages of Goritsa & Zoupena, is attributed to mass migration of Tsintzinians in the Lakonia plains, commencing near the end of the 18th Century. Soon afterwards, the rapid ascendancy of both villages led to the abandonment of Tsintzina as a yearlong residence. While early Tsintzinian huts in the area date back to perhaps no more than 250 years, remnants of at least two early bronze-age settlements have been located in the vicinity. Further evidence suggests that settlements -Laina notwithstanding- continued to exist throughout the Byzantine period.
Of the two villages, Goritsa was to grow to about twice the size of Zoupena and become a regional capital. This turn of events seems quite odd. Zoupena preceded the establishment of Goritsa by at least a whole fifty years and was endowed with more and better agricultural land that attracted initially the most prominent Tsintzinian families. Locational factors on the other hand, could initially have favored Goritsa. Later, the success of the olive trade, the environment created by the two-way flow of immigration and the presence of a host of governmental bureaus (municipal authority, magistrates court, police station, notary) including an advanced secondary school, secured the regional prominence that this village enjoyed well into the 1960s.
The Background to the Tsintzinian Settlement
K.D. Psichogios1 suggests that in the early 1700s, there was a gradual influx of population in Tsintzina, from as near as Kastanitza to as far out as Alagonia. It is possible that the ensuing overpopulation, aggravated the economic adversity from the largely seasonal trades and occupations of Tsintzinians. As it usually happens, some sought to explore opportunities beyond the limits of Karya. Among them, shepherds seeking grazing land and seasonal laborers.
About 20 miles south, the villagers of Perpeni had long ago spotted the vast, arid territory stretching south from the outskirts of their village, to River Evrotas. Its warmer climate suited wintertime elevage and to supplement this, the Perpeni shepherds planted a few olive trees here and there. This situation provided opportunity for the advancing Tsintzinians: The Perpeneoi could do with additional hands in the high season (October to March), while there was still plenty of grazing land available for Tsintzinian herds2. In the years to the Greek revolution however, Tsintzinian movement was rather limited. The Laconia plains lied largely at the mercy of Turkish troops, local bandits and other such hazards.
In the late 1770s, the Turks managed to rid the Evrotas Valley from the Albanian mercenaries they had earlier invited to help suppress the Orlov Revolution (1770-73). Tsintzinians felt safer to go south in greater numbers, still on a seasonal basis. Some decided to purchase land from the Perpenaioi, or to occupy unclaimed chunks. By 1806, when British Army Officer M. F. Leake passed through Tsintzina and recorded his findings, several small huts had been erected,3 scattered in an area Leake claimed to be stretching as far south as Elos.
The Settlement Assumes a Rapid Pace at the Expense of Tsintzina
No attempt seems to have been made to form a village until the end of the Greek war of independence (1821-1829), where a watershed for the evolution of Goritsa comes with the effective end of the Turkish rule. A question, raised by among others, K.D. Psichogios4 and also featuring in the collection of accounts of N.L. Andritsakis5, is the way that existing and former Ottoman-occupied farmland in Goritsa & Zoupena was apportioned among Tsintzinian settlers. According to some accounts at least, the luckiest of them -such as the distinguished Tsintzinian families of Koumoutzis & Gerasimos- managed to secure property at (or near) Zoupena and Laina, where plenty of water and prime, levelled fields waited to be claimed. Generally, there was little official state intervention to the allocation6. The vast majority of Tsintzinians, in particular the poorest of the sheep farmers and the craftsmen, were adroitly turned to settle within the basin of today’s village of Goritsa, where claiming land for agricultural use was indeed difficult.
Meanwhile in Goritsa
The location chosen by the first settlers to establish a village (initially, in the form of a few adjacent huts), was in the southeastern part of today’s village. Certainly, a factor affecting choice were the few surrounding wells, lying mostly in this part of the valley. This older section of the village today contains both, the ancestral houses of the majority of the oldest, genuine Tsintzinian families who settled in Goritsa and the spot of the gigantic gortsa tree9 that gave the village its name. Next to the Kostiannis’s family house, remnants of an old kalyva existed until the late 1980s. This hut was the early residence of the Varlas family and was widely believed to be the first-ever Goritsotan building. Several other huts were scattered within the fields, in the wider area from Harakocambos to River Evrotas.
The Formative Years (1901-1930)
Near the turn of the 20th century, Goritsa numbered about 100 houses altogether.9 With the exception of four or five, two-storey dwellings, most were humble, ground floor kalyves, all of more or less the same architectural design.10 The village’s westward frontier was the Prokeiko rema at the western edge of the main church,11 while north of the road nothing existed either.
Population growth stretched existing farmland, while the first immigrant remittances from Egypt & the USA were an unexpected source of income for some families. Against this background, a group of Goritsotans negotiated collectively with the Mavromichalis’s family for the purchase of a large part of their estate to the south of the village, across the banks of River Evrotas. Negotiations commenced in 1901 and were swiftly and favorably concluded, increasing the collective village estate by almost one third. The chief Goritsotan negotiator, was Dr. K. Gerasimos.12
The addition of this land increased the already sizeable harvest of olive oil in the village, which was extracted manually from primitive presses. This realization impelled a group of eight Goritsotans13 in 1902, to become “entrepreneurs” in the olive oil business. By forming a partnership, they set up the first steam-operated olive press in the village. This was a giant undertaking for its era, as it was one of a handful at the time in the entire district of Lakonia. Moreover, as there was no motorized road after the village of Skoura, all equipment had to be pulled through valleys and fields to a total distance of over six miles with rope, often rolling in logs. Lighter parts were transported by muletrain via the old mule track linking Skoura and Goritsa. In this unprecedented effort, the aid of the people of the neighboring villages of Skoura & Kefala was vital.
The steam olive press was a significant boost to the village economy and its dominance was to extend over a twenty-five year period. Multifold increases in the size of the crop in the meantime, called for a capacity expansion. With the partners of the steam press reluctant to take action, another group of about 100 producers formed a cooperative and set up a diesel-powered press in the mid-1930s.14 The diesel press was considerably faster and steadily outperformed its rival. Its shareholders had also access to a larger portion of the harvest. The two plants coexisted uneasily for another ten or so years. As the steam plant went increasingly on the decline, discord hit among its partners and some of them sold out to the remaining few. Finally, the two corporations merged in the late 1950s. Soon afterwards, the older plant ceased operations. Machinery was removed and the building was turned into a storage depot, a carousel wheel abandoned outside its main gate was rotting away year after year until the mid-1970s.
Great Infrastructure Projects and Donors:
The aqueduct, the road and public buildings
One of the first things to go in sort supply as the village grew toward the end of the 19th Century was actually water. A series of dry winters about the 1910s exacerbated the situation and Goritsotans formed a committee that appealed to immigrants abroad for co-fundraising a series of drillings in uphill areas of the village. Drilling (mostly in Harakocambos) commenced in 1912 without success. By the early 1920s, it was clear that available springs had to be utilized. Haraka, uphill and barely two miles away, seemed the only feasible solution but a natural obstacle at the village entrance called for delicate engineering and a good deal of money for the construction of an aqueduct system. Eventually, the solution to the engineering problem came in the form of skilled personnel from the Keratea district of Athens and Platon Andritsakis, a wealthy immigrant to Egypt, set up a significantly large donation to cover the cost. Construction began in 1925, and soon, the water was brought in the village, in a purpose-made outlet near the school.15 Remnants of this old vrisi were still visible until a few years ago.
Although a handful of cars and trucks did exist in Lakonia in the 1910s, they were largely unavailable as a means of general transportation of goods and persons. The dwindling cost of the automobile -largely attributed to Henry Ford- resulted in a proliferation of general purpose automobiles in the area and highlighted a new form of isolation for those villages such as Goritsa, that had no road links with the cities. Goritsotans formed a committee again, and the wealthy, well established Tsintzinian community of the US raised most of the necessary funds16.Work toward constructing the vital link began in 1923 at the outskirts of the village of Skoura. The six-mile extension to Goritsa was completed within three years.
Almost everything that was constructed between 1900-1930 carries the mark of a grand donor. As with the projects illustrated above, so with the village schools. The Tsintzina school (turned hotel in 1967), was a 1891 donation of Ioannis and Ekaterini Gregoriou, the greater of the Goritsotan donors. Their funding included construction of the Sparta General Hospital, the Sparta High School for Girls and in Goritsa, the Old Courthouse. The village school itself was the donation of Georgios Andritsakis in 1928, himself -like the Gregoriou- another wealthy immigrant to Egypt. Earlier, in 1905, Anastassios Anastasopoulos -a local merchant- had donated almost all of the money for the construction of the Scolarcheio, an advanced secondary education establishment that functioned until the mid-1930s. In a remarkable show of unity and foresight, allegedly Goritsotans agreed to an Anastassopoulos proposal to levy a surcharge in goods sold from his enterprise in the village, in order to complete the remaining of the necessary cost for this project.
As an epilogue to the spirit of Tsintzinian donors, many other projects were made possible throughout and until the late 1970s, thanks to the collective or individual generocity of Tsintzinians here and –mostly- abroad. The last sizeable project made possible through such a grant was the Koinotita (now municipal) office in 1964, by Markos Economakis. In the mid-1950s, Markos Economakis and Leonidas Papadopoulos, had set up a separate grant to lay the pipeline grid that eventually brought water to Tsintzinian houses. In the 1970s, it was the generous contribution of George Andritsakis (Thanassas) toward completing the Tsintzina ring-road that allowed this project to be concluded swiftly, while a Doscas grant made possible the construction of the football pitch and adjacent playground in the west end of Goritsa.
Perhaps the first solid indication about the emergence of a distinct, Goritsotan identity among Tsintzinian settlers, was the inauguration of the Goritsa parish under the Diocese of Monemvassia & Sparta in 1854. The establishment of the Enoria was followed by the decision to erect a new parish church that would be dedicated to the Eisodia of our Lady. Until then, Goritsotans probably maintained as their parish church the old chapel of St. Spiridon. The welcome breeze of religious freedom sweeping newly liberated Greeks, made Goritsotans decide to erect a grand church in a prominent location of their village. Construction began in 1857 and it lasted for about four years.
The architectural design of the church of Goritsa, was a slight variation of a domed basilica. The overall style bears a strong renaissance ambience, while the building is only slightly smaller than the Athens and Sparta Cathedrals -built a mere few years earlier- and clearly influenced by their style and features. Several of its key components, such as the Altar Gates, were ordered to the same craftsmen and factories.
The enthusiasm and participation of the villagers during the construction phase was unique and exemplary. The land was donated by the Politis family. The sand to be used in the masonry mix was carried by the people on their backs from the Pharmakeiki Gourna. Most of the largest of the sculpted cornerstones were carried on horse carts or loaded in mules and donkeys in special, makeshift structures. In the same fashion, the marble-stones that tiled the floor of the church itself and its yard were transported from the port of Gytheio. These stones had been ordered to factories and craftsmen in Athens and shipping them to the nearest port to Goritsa was, in the 1850s, the easiest way to transport them to the village. Verbal tradition has that a Goritsotan woman, avowed herself to carry one stone from the point of delivery in Gytheion for “as long as her feet would support her” toward the village. She is said to have completed her vow, smiling throughout the journey!
The church of Eisodia, avoiding discreetly every trace of unnecessary luxury or décor-overload, was concluded to an architectural monument unique to the wider area of Lakonia. The inauguration ceremony took place in 1861, while a few years later the belfries were completed. The upper-deck of the church –the gynaekonitis- was constructed in 1895. The original hagiography (re-frescoed in the 1960s) was of high quality renaissance style as was the prevailing style in churches throughout the 19th Century. Unfortunately, accumulated fumes from years of burning synthetic paraffin candles and the corrosive influence of moisture all but destroyed the original iconography. In 1963, the veteran hagiographer Mikis Matsakis, was commissioned to re-hagiograph the church. Skillfully, he managed to preserve the original color balance while of the earlier iconography, the Platytera fresco, largely unaffected by the fumes, was preserved over the Altar. Of the framed icons of the church, the Nymphios comprises perhaps one of the most spectacular pieces of 19th century iconography. It is a large oil-in-canvass, hagiographed in 1887 and it can be seen during the night services of Easter, from Great (Holy) Monday to Great (Holy) Wednesday.
The three bells of the church were commissioned in Russia and are of exceptional acoustics. The bigger of the two in the northern belfry was the most spectacular. Its echo lasted for a long time, and it could be heard miles away in the surrounding fields. Its elevation to the belfry required delicate engineering, given that its weight approached 800 kg. This bell cracked in the 1930s, in the course of being rung on a feast day. Though the crack was minor and the bell continued to be used –albeit with caution- for several years, its unique acoustic properties were lost. For its rehabilitation, a massive operation was conducted shortly after the war, supervised by Goritsa Priest, Rev. Nikolaos Papadopoulos. The bell was carefully lowered, then taken to the Moutsopoulos Steelworks in Sparta, where it was melted down and re-shaped on a purpose-made mould, designed on the original bell specifications & measurements. This operation however, could not restore much of its original acoustic properties that were irrevocably lost on the morning of the fatal crack of the 1930s. Prizeless also is the belfry clock, a donation of members of the Prokos family in the US. In its almost centenary of service, it required a major overhaul only once, in the 1950s.
Two other major additions to this unique building were performed. In the 1970s, the entire exterior surface of the building was covered with artificiel, a form of plaster extremely resistant to the elements. Lastly, in the 1990s, the building was fitted with central heating, aiming to stop the corrosive influence of moisture in both, structure and iconography. This project was initiated and supervised by Rev. Elias Sarris and again, the numerous donations of Goritsotans allowed for its swift conclusion. Installing the necessary water pipes was done meticulously so as not to damage the artwork. At the same time, most of the aging seating decks of the building were replaced with new, maintaining the general harmony of the surrounds.
A separate note must be made for the cemetery and the adjacent chapels of St. Spiridon in Goritsa. Though the first place of rest for Goritsotans remains unknown, by the late 1800s, G. & K. Politis, donated land for the construction of a proper cemetery around the old chapel of St. Spiridon. Works were completed between 1891-1896, while the donor for the actual construction, was Spiro Oikonomou. Just after the cemetery was completed, verbal tradition has that Spiro Economou died and was the first to be put to rest in it. Tsintzina maintained their (separate) cemetery for at least another hundred years. The last burial in the mountain was in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the cemetery was formally decommissioned. A mystery surrounded the place of the age-old Tsintzina cemetary, widely believed by verbal tradition to be within the area that today comprises the old school (hotel) yard. These rumors were confirmed in the spring of 2001, when excavation work underneath the square, unearthed the old osteofylakion.
With the completion of works in the Goritsa cemetery, a new, larger chapel to St. Spiridon was erected, inaugurated in 1895 by the Metropolitan Bishop of Sparta, Theoklitos. Upon completing the new chapel, Goritsotans decided to demolish the older one. Then, a man from the Floros (Zervas) family appealed not to demolish the chapel, as in his slumber, he said to have seen St. Spiridon urging Goritsotans to preserve the chapel intact. This man’s plea was initially ignored. However, a few days later, when the workers climbed on the roof of the old chapel to start the demolition by removing the roof tiles, upon ascending they collapsed to the roof and remained stuck there, unable to move. This was clearly taken as a sign that Mr Floros’s dream was indeed something to be taken seriously. Demolition was abandoned and the old chapel still stands today, preserving most of its original features.
Soon afterwards, a few chapels were erected by pious Goritsotans in the surrounding area. St. George’s chapel was erected in the 1880s, by donors that wished to remain anonymous. In the late 1920’s-1930’s the chapels of St. Demetrios & Analipsis were erected. In the Laina area, St. Stephanos’s was built near the byzantine chapel of St. Taxiarchai. And atop the Tsertouni hill, the chapel of St. Elias rests, overlooking the Goritsa plains, together with that of the Analipsis to a hilltop at the east of the village.
Still unlocated, is the exact place of an earlier chapel that is believed to have existed in the area south of the village, that of St. Kiriaki. This chapel is not in the living memory of the last few generations, its location believed to be to the left of the untarred road to river Evrotas, close to where the hilly contours of the olive groves smooth out to give way to the river banks.
One may not talk about formal schooling during the Turkish occupation, which ended in 1829. A basement room next to the catholicon (church) of the adjacent to Tsintzina Monastery of Kelli, (dissolved in the 1830s), is widely believed to have been used as a secret (clandestine) place of language instruction. This was a common occurrence in during the Ottoman conquest, where the Greek language was largely preserved thanks to the efforts of monks that used to teach young children posing as trainee cantors to the inquiring Turks. Though, verbal tradition has that it was in this fashion -this time in the open air- that schooling continued in Tsintzina until the 1850s. A local church cantor, P. I. Roumanis, was still gathering village children in his orchard at Kokkinovrachos, giving them rudimentary education for a few years to come. Twenty years later in Goritsa, an established all-boy’s school was in full operation in the old Phillipas’ family residence. In 1874, the boy’s school was transferred in a building donated by a member of the Lambros family, at the northwestern corner of the village church, where today are the residences of the Vamvalis & Panagos families.
It appears a separate girls’ school was established around the 1900s, housed in the old residence of the Stephanos Vouloumanos family, formerly residence of P. Andritsakis, who had donated the building to become a girls’ school just before the turn of the century. Later, the girls’ school was moved in the Roumanis’ family residence and later to the Gregoris (Drepanias) residence (today the property of the church, used as the residence of the village priest).
Both schools merged in 1928, to move to a newly completed, purpose-made grand building, a donation of Georgios Andritsakis, a wealthy immigrant to Egypt. This building remains today as the village school, built in a wide field at the edge of the village, encompassing a playground, athletic installations, gardens and until recently a pine woods.
Until the educational reforms of the 1930s, Goritsa had also an advanced secondary education establishment, the famous Scholarcheio, housed in a purpose-made building, erected with a donation by Anastassios Anastassopoulos in 1905.
Tsintzina acquired their own school building, thanks to a donation of Ioannis & Ekaterini Gregoriou in the late 19th century. The schooling year commenced in Tsintzina in September, then by October pupils moved to the Goritsa and Zoupena buildings until Easter and back to Tsintzina for the last month of their schooling. The Zoupena school occupied the west wing of the building, whilst the Goritsa school was housed in the eastern section. This arrangement lasted until the war, where changing patterns and necessities meant that Tsintzina school was closed down. Its building lay largely abandoned until 1965, when works commenced to convert it to a hotel, inaugurated in 1967.
©: S.N.A., 2001
1. Psichogios, K.D. “TSINTZINA”, unpublished monograph, 1941
2. Andritsakis, N.S.: “Notes on the History of Goritsa”, unpublished monograph, Goritsa, 1976.
3. M.F. Leake, “Travels in the Morea”, Vol. 2, p.p. 515-518
4. Psichogios, K.D., ibid
5. Andritsakis, N.L.: Collection of anecdotal accounts, taken from Goritsotan elders during the 1930s. The majority, were published in “TA TSINTZINA” between 1965-67
6. Actually, some harrowing tales exist in the Psichogios & Andritsakis’s accounts, about resort to severe violence with the purpose of intimidating earlier settlers. At least one brutal killing is reported in that respect.
7. It must be noted that Church Registries in Greece were not required until the 1910s. Therefore, this Register is informal and incomplete, containing only reported weddings. Often, whether a wedding during that period would be reported, depended a good deal on the local priest. The first registered wedding in Goritsa is in 1857, at the Church of the Eisodia of our Lady. This entry is a little paradoxical, given that work in the church commenced in 1855, however the church was completed in 1861. Probably, the registrar at the Diocese meant the “parish” rather than the “church” of the Eisodia.
8. Psichogios, K.D., ibid
9. This description of the village in the early 1900s exemplifies uniform oral tradition and was relayed in the N.L. Andritsakis’ interviews by Gero-Grammatikoyannis (see the Tsintzina history references for additional detail).
10. The typical Goritsotan kalyva was a rectangular building of 4mx10m, featuring a large partitioned room in one end with a fireplace and a small window, the other part split in two levels. On the bottom level, it was the resting place for the animals. The top level, constructed by a wooden sub-ceiling, was the storage room for tools & animal feed, occasionally being used as a sleeping place if the family was too large and members could not fit in the other room. Almost all of the kalyves were made of stone, a few by bricks of clay.
11. N.L. Andritsakis, op.cit.
12. N.S. Andritsakis, op.cit.
13. The eight original partners were: Mathaios I. Mathaios, Spiros. P. Andritsakis, P.I. Oikonomou, D. Vamvalis, N. I. Grigoris, D.K. Nestopoulos, K. Doskas and K. Koutris.
14. The leader of this bold move was Dr P. Gregoris, whilst Angelos Triiris was for years to come the “Plant Director”.
15. N.S. Andritsakis, op.cit.
16. Spiro P. Andritsakis, a newly repatriated American immigrant (and one of a handful of car owners at the time, in possession of a Model-T Ford, which he affectionately called “Froso”) was appointed as project director and treasurer.
17. This section based entirely on the N. S. Andritsakis collection –see references- whilst a summary has been presented to the Jamestown Lefkoma a few years ago)
© S.N.A., 2001