TT6 - The Ntoltso-district in the centre of the town Kastoria, in regional unity of Kastoria: Preservation, revival and capacity for developing additional value activities for historical values in rural areas related with the enhancement of cultural herit

TT6: Capacity for territorial development by on-place based cultural values enhancement

The Ntoltso-district in the centre of the town Kastoria, in regional unity of Kastoria: Preservation, revival and capacity for developing additional value activities for historical values in rural areas related with the enhancement of cultural heritage assets.

The endeavour started by the Ministry of Culture, based on the law 1469/1950 "Protection of special category of buildings and works of art after 1830", which declared as preserved a series of urban mansions in the Ntoltso-district, Kastoria because of their significance in the 19th century architecture evolution of Kastoria. Due to the rapid and unregulated development of cities and the countryside after 1950, the Greek state and the Ministry of Culture tried to check the destruction of local architecture, declaring various houses as monuments.

In these houses, one can feel the balanced relation with environment, the sense of moderation and the harmonization with the human scale. Some of the mansions later housed museums, showing a way of utilizing monuments.

History of Kastoria

Kastoria is a town in northern Greece in the region of West Macedonia. It is the capital of Kastoria regional unit. It is situated on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Orestiada, in a valley surrounded by limestone mountains. The town is known for its many Byzantine churches, Ottoman-era domestic architecture, fur clothing industry, and trout.

The name "Kastoria" first appears in the middle of the 6th century (550 AD), mentioned by Procopius as follows: “There was a certain town in Thessaly, Diocletianopolis by name, which had been prosperous in ancient times, but with the passage of time and the assaults of the barbarians it had been destroyed, and for a very long time it had been destitute of inhabitants; and a certain lake chances to be close by which was named Castoria...” (Procopius "Περί κτισμάτων" /On buildings, book IV,1.3).  Although Prokopios refers to it as “a town of Thessaly” the description is undoubtedly that of Kastoria, a town on a promontory in a lake. There are several theories about the origin of the name Kastoria.  The dominant of these is that the name derives from the Greek word κάστορας (beaver).  Trade in the animal's fur, sourced from nearby Lake Orestiada, has traditionally been an important element of the town's economy.  Other theories propose that the name derives from the Greek word κάστρο (castle) or from the mythical hero Κάστωρ (Castor), who may have been honoured in the area.

Kastoria is believed to have ancient origins; it has been identified with the ancient town of Celetrum, possibly located on a hill above the town's current location, and captured by the Romans in 200 BC. The Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD) founded the town of Diocletianopolis somewhere in the vicinity (today in Argos Orestiko). After it was destroyed by barbarians, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I relocated the town on a promontory projecting into Lake Orestiada, the town's current location, and may have renamed it Justinianopolis.

Kastoria's history was peaceful until the 10th century, when its strategic position led to it being contested between the Byzantine Empire and the First Bulgarian Empire. The town was conquered by the Bulgarian Empire in the mid-9th century and remained in Bulgarian hands until the fall of First Bulgarian Empire at the hands of Basil II in the beginning of the 11th century, when it re-joined the Byzantine Empire. The town was later re-conquered by Bulgaria under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II in the 13th century but was recovered by the Nicaean Empire in 1246. It was held by the Serbian Empire between 1331 and 1380 and by the Albanian Muzaka family in the 1380-1385.

Around 1385, the Ottoman Empire conquered Kastoria, but it is unclear whether by force or by an agreement with its Albanian rulers. The town would remain under Ottoman rule until the First Balkan War (1912), when Greece took it. The 1913 treaties of London and Bucharest incorporated Kastoria into the Greek state.

During both World War II and the Greek Civil War, the town was repeatedly fought over and heavily damaged in the process. It was nearly captured by the Communist Democratic Army of Greece in 1948, and the final battles of the civil war took place on the nearby Mount Gramos in 1949.

In 1940 the Jewish population in Kastoria numbered 900, composed predominantly of Ladino language speaking Sephardic Jews. Many family names were of Italian origin as a result of emigrations (originally from Spain) via Italy in 17th and 18th centuries.

In late March 1944, under Nazi German occupation during World War II, 763 Kastorian Jews were taken prisoner by Nazi troops and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, as part of a program of deliberate extermination of Jews during the Holocaust. Kastoria was liberated by the guerrillas of the Greek People's Liberation Army less than 4 months after the Jewish citizens were forced to the concentration camps. By the end of the war in 1945, only 35 of the original population had survived, the vast majority of the community having been killed in concentration camps.

Kastoria today

When speaking of Kastoria, three symbolic main indicators characterizing its identity associatively spring to mind: its Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments, its fur industry and the beautiful natural environment of its lake.

The town of Kastoria with a population of 20,636 inhabitants is the capital of the respective county and located in its center. It is spread out amphitheatrically at an altitude of 620m. The county has a population of 53,483 inhabitants and an area of 1685 km ². The town is built on a peninsula that penetrates Orestiada lake, in the shade of the impressive mass of Grammos and Vitsi mountains. The lake of Kastoria is located in the northwest region of Macedonia, has an average water depth of 4.4 m. and a maximum depth of 8.5 m. Its surface is 30 km² and an average absolute level elevation of 625.9 m.

Kastoria is an international centre of fur trade, which dominates the local economy. Indeed the town was possibly named after one of the former staples of the trade – the European beaver, now extinct in the area. Trading in mink fur now predominates and every year an international showcase of fur takes place in the town. Other industries include the sale and distribution of locally grown produce, particularly wheat, apples, wine and fish. Kastoria has 16 local radio stations, 2 TV stations, 5 daily newspapers and 7 weekly ones. The town's airport is named Aristotelis Airport.

Kastoria is an important religious centre for the Greek Orthodox Church and is the seat of a metropolitan bishop. It originally had 72 Byzantine and medieval churches, of which 54 have survived, including St Athanasius of Mouzaki. Some of these have been restored and provide useful insight into trends in Late Byzantine styles of architecture and fresco painting. The Museum of Byzantine History located on Dexamenis Square houses many examples of Byzantine iconography. Kastoria is filled with old manors dating to the Ottoman period, while parts of the old Byzantine walls also stand.

The host/executive organisation (members, structure of the preparation/execution/monitoring, roles and responsibilities)

Ministry of Culture, Prefecture of Kastoria, Municipality of Kastoria, local company for Business Studies, Construction and Development (named as ANKAS)

The restoration department was created by the Ministry of Culture as being the state authority responsible for the salvation and preservation of the cultural heritage. Additionally, it played a role in the creation of museums as a supervising authority which has sufficient scientific grounding. In recent years a tendency appeared to revive the historical centre of the town, known as Ntoltso, by private individuals, who invest money in the purchase and restoration of preserved mansions, aiming to exploit them as enterprises (guest houses, restaurants etc).

The endeavour to revive the Ntoltso district was initially aiming at salvaging and preserving the traditional 18th and 19th century architecture of the town, which reflects the wealth of the town inhabitants. It gradually became apparent that the preserved monuments have additional value and that they could be used in a genial way, so that the traditional architecture would remain unscathed and the monuments could obtain a new use. Some mansions became operative as museums, whereas others are used as hotels (guest houses) and restaurants. In this way the monuments gain distinction, tourism is given an impetus and new working positions are created.

The legal framework

Laws 1469/1950, 3028/2002

Many mansions have been declared as monuments in 1965 (ministerial decision 16297/18.10.1965 - ΦΕΚ 730/Β/04.11.1965). From then until today other mansions have been declared as monuments too.

The financial framework (financial resources required for the implementation and financial sources, funds etc.)

Many opportunities and possibilities for funding under the European (Leader, Leader+) and national programs were used and also the budgets of Greek ministries and local government. Investors had substantial participation either through donations or as residential investment and tourism infrastructure.

There is a tendency for revival of the district of Ntoltso, the old centre of Kastoria, with its famous mansions. The interest for purchasing and restoring mansions – many of which were deserted – is very important, as it entails the revival of the historic district after a period of decline.

Three museums are housed in old and restored mansions (Folk Museum in Neratzis Aivazis Mansion, Museum of Macedonian Struggle in Picheon Mansion, Traditional Costumes Museum in Emmanouil Bros’ Mansion). In addition to these, neoclassical buildings from the begginings of the 20th century are fashioned into hotels (Venetoula’s Mansion, Vergoulas Mansion, Ntoltso Tavern).

The EU Initiative Entrepreneurial Program Leader + was implemented in Kastoria County by the Local Action Group “Anaptixiaki Kastorias S.A.”. It was titled “Route to Nature and Culture” and it aimed to exploit, protect and elevate the natural and cultural sources, including the exploitation of landscapes under Natura 2000 (Kastoria Lake, Grammos, Vitsi), in order to promote quality tourism.

Mansions in the Ntoltso district:

  • Basaras’ Mansion: Located on Vyzantiou Street, it is considered one of the oldest mansions of the mid-18th century. In 1976 it devolved to state jurisdiction and there has been some roof preservation/maintenance work. Today it is in a very bad shape and was suggested for the creation of a Fur Museum in the town.
  • Natzis’ Mansion: One of the best preserved mansion, it is also located on Vyzantiou Street. Its construction is referred in the mid-18th century. For some period in the 20th century it housed a museum.
  • Emmanouil’ Mansion: It belonged to the Emmanouil Brothers, well-known national martyrs, who were put to death together with Rigas Feraios. It is located on Vyzantiou Street. It is restored and it houses the Traditional Costumes’ Museum.
  • Neratzis-Aivatzis’ Mansion: It was built in the 18th century and is located on Kapetan Lazou Street. In the ‘70s it devolved to the Municipality (of Kastoria) and later to the Musical and Literary Society “Armonia”. Since 1975 it houses the Folk Museum.
  • Orologopoulos’ Mansion: It is located on Picheon Street, near the Ntoltso Square. It underwent many façade alterations with neoclassical elements.
  • Skoutaris: It was built towards the end of the 18th century and it is located on the southrn bank of the town, on Orestiados Street. It devolved to the National Tourist Organization and today it is preserved in good repair.
  • Batrinos’ Mansion: It was built in the 19th century by M. Batrinos. It is located on the intersection of Picheon Street and Kapetan Lazou Street.
  • Vergouladika: Two twin mansions on Aiditras (Agiou Kosma) Street. They were built in mid-19th century from the master builder A. Vergoulas. Today they are exemplary restored and they house the Musical Instrument Manufacturing School of the Municipality and a guest house respectively.
  • Mitoussis’ Mansion: It is located on Kapetan Lazou Street and it was built in the mid-19th century.
  • Delidinas’ Mansion: It is located on Emm. Pappa Street.
  • Gakis’ Mansion: One more of the 19th century mansions located at the Ntoltso Suqare.
  • Pouliopoulos’ Mansion: It was recently restored housing a dining hall. Not so long ago it suffered severe fire damage (Ntoltso Restaurant).
  • Stefanis’ Masion: It is located on Venizelou Street. It was built in mid-19th century.
  • Paschalis’ Mansion: It located on the southern bank. It is not in good repair and it has undergone alterations.
  • Papaterpos’ Mansion: It is an impressive building on the southern bank (M. Alexandrou Street). It was built by Ottoman owners in the ‘80s and it is one of the singularly extant buildings today in the ottoman part of the town. It devolved to the Papaterpos family and was restored in 1987. Today it houses the Technical Chamber of Kastoria.
  • Picheon: It was constructed towards the end of the 19th century by Filolaos, son of Anastassios Picheon, who was a Prime Mover of the Macedonian Struggle. It is located in Ntoltso Square and was recently restored, housing the Museum of Macedonian Struggle.

There is no measurable data for the successful revival of the district, as there isn’t a specific planning yet.

Difficulties were thus far encountered in the declaration of monuments as well as the financing of their restoration.

As the planning goes only as far as salvaging and preserving the traditional architecture, it is not possible to register factors of the successful implementation of the good practice.

Contact Details

Dr. Dimitris Mylonas