Typical Tinian dovecote with geometric pattern

Typical Tiniot dovecote with geometric pattern

I was fascinated by the dovecote houses of Tinos. In an arid area where cattle are conspicuous by their absence, pigeons were reared in the Cyclades for various reasons, including for food and live target practice. The latter is now banned and as for the former – you can only eat baked pigeon in one place on Tinos: in the restaurants in the main square of the northern village of Pyrgos.

You can see dovecotes on the Cyclades, but it’s only on Tinos that they have reached a decorative brilliance unmatched anywhere else – and for what reason? Very likely it was a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ attitude among the richer Tiniots. There is a particular, well-signposted path on the island that lets you visit several of the most interesting examples, all within one hour of each other.

The dovecotes pictured here date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (when they also start appearing in islanders’ wills next to farms and houses). The geometric patterns used on dovecotes mostly using triangles and squares are typically Cycladic; you will see similar patterns in the chimney pots of Sifnos and in the upper floors of villas on Mykonos, as well as on Tinos itself.