The oldest buildings existing in the village’s historical core were constructed -at least -before 1882. It generally appears that three historical neighbourhoods are formed within the traditional core.
The northern neighbourhood, in the form of a core, extends west of the Archangel Michael church along the “Eirinis”, “Andrea Dimitriou”, and “Agias Aikaterinis” streets. The southern neighbourhood is linearly shaped along the “Antheon” and “Georgiou Fotiou” streets. The third -eastern -neighbourhood extends east of the old “argaki” (means stream or field in a ravine) that spouted from Saint Catherine’s Holy Water Spring. It is a more recent neighbourhood and it is formed over some old threshing floors.
It seems that the northern and southern neighbourhoods joined together through sparse buildings, consisting of isolated “makrynaria” (elongated buildings) in a free formation. Today most of them have been demolished and newer structures have been erected in their place, having an increased volume and being incompatible with the extant traditional architecture.
There are several prominent architectural elements that define the area of the northern neighbourhood:
- The Holy Water Spring of St Catherine in the western edge.
- The mediaeval fountain in the crossing of the three roads between “A. Dimitriou” and Agias Aikarterinis (Saint Catherine’s) streets and an older footpath that led to “Profitis Elias” (Prophet Elias).
- The church of Archangel Michael.
- A more recent fountain at the eastern edge of the quarter, which demarcates the development until 1953.
- The two schools -the older one, which was used as a granary during the British colonial rule and where tax collection took place, as well as the more recent school (today a gallery).
- The ‘House of Kortzi’ (a tax collector during the British rule) and also the ‘Proxeneio’ (Consulate) or ‘Tsifliki tou Santi’ (Santi’s Manor) – All four buildings are located on St Catherine’s street and signify the administrative significance of the village’s core during the 19th century.
The village’s streets
Eirini’s Street is fashioned mostly with two-storeyed buildings, built in continuation ground level houses and made with stone, while the upper floors may sometimes be made with mud-bricks. The sides facing the street are characterized by the houses’ large, stone-made, arched gateways, which are the main openings toward the street apart from some skylights.
Upon the buildings’ facets, the arched doors are always installed off-center, creating an esthetically perfect game in architectural composition of massive blocks and apertures. Eirini’s street joins with St Catherine’s at the west end, which is defined by the mountain’s foothill. At the end of the row of historic buildings, the natural landscape provides clarity of the historical structural development, which is clearly marked against the nature and where a footpath standing at higher ground can be found on the hill -along the east side of ‘Arodafni’. It served a series of chained, underground saps.
Saint Catherine’s street is also characterized by continuous structures with tall stone-made fences and two-storeyed buildings. At the east end of this road there is a significant complex of buildings, which used to be a manor (mediaeval grange) and had the covered, arched gateway as its entrance. Today’s owner mentioned that this building complex was the consulate or “kousoulato” and was known as “Santi’s manor”. According to Jeffery, there were many manors in the area during the Turkish rule, belonging to foreigners that also operated as consuls. For example, The “Riddell chiftlik” southwest of Pyla or in Ormideia (where the manors of the Levant Company were). If indeed the owner of the manor in Voroklini was a consul, perhaps it refers to T. B. Sandwith (consul 1865-1870). Sandwith also had an interest in archaeology and -during his time -published a number of articles regarding the archaeology of Cyprus. He himself mentions the discovery of a vessel, which today is found in the British Museum, in the Verki venue.
From the “consulate and on extends today’s “Anexartisias” (Independence) street, in which all of the village’s coffeehouses can be found. In the manner of a frequently observed phenomenon, the coffeehouses are located one across from the other. Formerly the coffeehouses were located further up, at the junction of Saint Catherine’s and Independence streets.
The buildings consist of two-storeyed, elongated structures turned towards the street and with arched, covered gateways that lead to the in-house yard with stone walls at the ground floor and mud-bricks or stone at the second floor. From the side of the yard, the gateway leads to an arched loggia that faces toward the courtyard. From that loggia there is often a door that leads to a ground-floor, elongated room. Often, within the structural complex of such a house, one can also find a “dichoro” (long room divided in two) with a stone-made, vaulted arch or a “dichoro” with a wooden king beam that is supported by woodcut “elbows” (skids). The buildings’ complexes are arranged in a ‘Γ’ shape and the various areas are connected mainly through the large, internal yard. The ladders that one can encounter in Voroklini are made with special virtuosity. Huge, one-piece stairs made of squared, hewed stones that seat on a stone-made base and lead to a covered balcony up on the second floor. The rooms of the ground floor have no windows, only small skylights situated high above. The rooms of the second floor have windows with wooden (planked) shutters, facing towards the yard and very rarely -in older times -toward the street. Windows facing toward the street seem to have been opened more recently.
Prominent elements in the southern neighborhood
In the case of the southern neighborhood -just like in the northern one -the element of water appears dominant in the demarcation of the settlement. The sap, located at the foothill of ‘Arodafni’ in the southern edges of the quarter, is a unique and extremely rare architectural structure that relates with the canalization of water.
It consists of an oval -from a sectional view -and vaulted structure with a sharp-end raceway, from which the water came out as the village’s inhabitants recollect. It is not clear whether the sap received water from an independent source or the same source as the spring of St Catherine. From there on the water was channeled to an “argaki” along the edge of the village, supplying a fountain at the nearest crossing of “Anexartisias”, “Antheon”, “1st of March”, and “G. Fotiou” streets. This fountain does not exist today. The neighborhood ended further east, at the stone-made school that was constructed in 1922 and where the offices of the Community Council are housed today.
From the “Laoumi” (the sap), there was a footpath towards “Profitis Elias”. This footpath leads to a flight of stairs that are carved on the rock, known as the “Prophet’s footprints”.
Structural Development of the southern neighborhood:
There are two possibilities regarding the chronology of the southern neighborhood’s development. In the first case, it must be more recent than the northern neighborhood that is recorded on the map. In the other case is that it was made of smaller, poorer structures that the representation of -on that map and at that time -was not considered important. Many of these lodgings replicate -though in smaller size -the architectural arrangement and the details of the more wealthy houses of the northern neighborhood.
It seems that in the southern neighborhood the structures developed unevenly inside every yard, with additions that matched the development of the family’s needs. In the yards of these houses one can often come across a simultaneous cohabitation of -at least -four generations. This offers support to the view that the southern neighborhood must have been formed -leastwise -during the same date as the one further north and that it belonged to the rural families, which perhaps worked in the nearby, large farms and had no land of their own in the 19th century. The phenomenon of many generations cohabiting in complexes within the same courtyard is a remarkable social phenomenon in the Cypriot tradition. In Voroklini, this tradition has affected the architectural form of the houses and also the design of the neighborhoods.
According to this tradition, the male had to provide the dowry and the female entered the house and the family of her husband. It has indeed been documented that -until 1930 -the family of the husband had to contribute the largest part of a house’s cost for the newly weds. The dowry institution on behalf of the wife appears in Cyprus later on, when new socioeconomic conditions were shaped that benefited the emigration of young males. It was then that a house started being given as a dowry for the daughter, so as to help and exhort the young males not to emigrate. (Loizos, 1975).
The typology of the Buildings
The houses of Voroklini have many special features that resemble the architecture of the surrounding region (Sinos, 1976), which -in its greatest part -today is under occupation and thus unknown to the younger generations. The architectural heritage of the region has barely been studied and published, therefore any comparative approach in this present document is not feasible. Some limited reference to the region’s architecture exists only for isolated structures in Xylophagou (Ionas, 1998).
The main characteristic of the houses, when one is looking from the street, is their “closed” architecture with the off-center gateway being the only opening in the ground floor. The older houses resemble in character the mediaeval French ranch houses known as ‘bastide’. It is very characteristic that in entire neighborhoods, such as the ones on Eirini’s street or the Antheon – G. Fotiou streets, the houses belong to kindred families.
Often the gateway has a sculptured frame made of stone and the symmetry in the arrangement of the patio is only met in more recent buildings. The gateway leads to a covered patio, enclosed from its three sides and opened on its fourth side, toward the house’s yard, often having a vaulted arch. The arch is made with “athasopetra”, which is a hard, hewed stone with a smooth surface.
Usually the main area looking toward the street had two floors of the single-area type or the elongated one. The off-center appearing patio at the end of the elongated area could have had a door leading to the only room of the ground floor. When the symmetrical arrangement is present, the rooms of the ground floor are facing each other through the patio. However, in most cases, entrance to the elongated, ground-floor area is done through the yard.
In cases where we come across structural complexes inside the same yard, one also comes across the “dichoro” (two-areas room) with the vaulted, stone-made arch or a wooden straining beam.
In most cases where there is a second floor, access to it is achieved through an internal, stone-made staircase in a straight line and with one-piece stairs made of stone and seated on a built base also made of stone. The staircases of Voroklini are a special architectural element with regards to Cypriot standards, also observed in islands with a well-developed tradition in stonework. One can also find similar details in the making of such stairways in the island of Patmos. Every stair is cut out at the right size from a single stone and seated in its place. It is shaped in such a way so as to slightly protrude from the side of the base, lending an architectural style to the building’s appearance. This solid stairway with one-piece stairs leads to a small, light, wooden balcony, which usually covers only the area in front of the elongated room’s door in the upper floor. Under the balcony is the ground-floor’s door and -on the stairway’s vertical wall next to that door -a wicket with a sharpened top or a base for an urn is shaped for the water-crock to sit on.
The balcony’s floor may be seated on a stone-made, vaulted arch, which surrounds the door of the ground-floor’s elongated area. In these cases, the balcony’s floor is covered with Cypriot marble. In most cases, however, we find the balcony to be a wooden structure with projective beams or “tsappes” (plural, kind of rafters), upon which there is a wooden floor made of planks. In all cases, the balcony is roofed with a cover that is supported at the corners by two wooden posts with a small cross section, upon which some projective, oblique rafters (“tsappes”) are fastened. The roofing was formerly made with planks (only one such case is extant). Later on the planks were replaced or the overhang was made with metallic sheets of galvanized tin. Inside the ground-floor’s elongated area one often finds a corner fireplace and -in one case -an attic that is placed low for the storage of agricultural produce.
The windows in the ground floor were very few and only in latter times were they made facing the street, while there usually are windows looking toward the yard as far as the second floor rooms are concerned. The areas of the ground-floor are usually without windows and have doors with double planks, facing the yard.
Generally, the room of the upper floor is considered as the best of the house, since the floors were covered with Cypriot marble while the ground-floor areas could have been covered with just soil (before the appearance of cement as material for the covering of floors). In many cases the floor of the upper level is found having excellent, white, polished cement with a smooth surface and brilliance. The ceilings of the upper level also are made with reed or planks (“skouretta”, plural, kind of balcony with shutters looking outward), while for the ground-floor some thorny burnets or even “Selotex” (insulation board) may have been used in the constructions of the early 20th century or in latter renovations.
The architectural decor is limited to the stone-made frames of the doors, the bases and the frames of the marble arches, the wooden “fourousia” (a rafter that sticks out of the wall so as support the straining beam) and “elbows”, and also visible in embossed or painted deterring symbols. Such are found around the gateways in the form of embossed, stone-made rosettes or painted symbols (palm-trees).
The existing colors are -mainly -the white for the stone/brick-work and the greenish or blue colors for the cavities. Color is also used as a decorative element inside the crock / urn base.
In most cases the ground-floor of the houses is built with uneven stones and dense “matsaggana” (plural, from the Italian “mazzacana”, referring to stonework with gravel or small pieces of stone and no plaster), while the upper floor is made with mud-bricks and coated with clay-mud. The ceilings were made with a reed-wattle that was placed vertically over the “tsappes” (rafters). Above the wattle, on the roof of the ground-floor, some soil was placed and the upper-level’s floor was made with Cypriot marble. The floor of the ground-level is made with hardened “konnos” (alluvial, greenish clay). In some other characteristic cases, above the roof they would place corrugated tiles, which were widely used during the British rule. The roofs’ eaves are made with slabs of local stone or marbles covered with an inclining layer of mortar.
No systematic research has been done regarding the traditional artisans of the village though one of the builders that constructed many houses in the southern neighborhood (e.g. the house of Mr. George and Mrs. Eleni Solomou) is reported as someone named Saloustis.
The configuration of the yard
The yards often constitute 70% of the building plots, something that indicates their importance as areas of work for the production and storage of agricultural produce. Within the yard one can find the oven, the well, as well as other agricultural structures such as the barn, the chicken-shacks, the dovecotes, a washhouse, and pens for the livestock.
The extant agricultural structures are a rare instance for all of Cyprus and the historical function of the houses. One comes across structures made of reed and clay in a style where the reed is used as reinforcement or even a grid (after the reeds are tied together), around which the clay (mixed with straw) is later on left to dry in the sun. This type of dovecote structures -as well as chicken shacks and pens -are of great importance for the agricultural history of the land and must not be underestimated. Other chicken-shacks are more conventionally constructed with mud-bricks and roofs of branches and burnets.
The village’s ovens can be found in a variety of shapes. Perhaps a separate study of their typology will be needed, as well as a research regarding their chronology. On this we can mention the two main types: the stone-made oven that is adjacent to the kitchen and also the second type, which is independent of the main house and placed within the yard, close to the kitchen. This oven consists of two ellipsoid vaults made of mud-bricks that are consecutive in such a manner so that there is only one opening at the end of the first one, which communicates with the back part of the oven through a parallel opening. The external vault has an arched opening and also a chimney on top. The ovens of this type are coated with white lime. Other, more simple ovens have a built, stone-made, square base and a hemispheric (or ellipsoid) oven, which is made of mud-bricks, the upper part being coated with clay-mud.
Many of the traditional wells in the yards have disappeared. One stone-made well is extant in the yard of plot no. 60. The privately owned wells were not many. Most of them seem to have been placed along the foothill.
The most characteristic plants in the yards were palm-trees, fig-trees (producing two annual crops), lemon trees, and pomegranates. One can also come across prickly pears that were used as fences. Also, in many yards one can find aromatic herbs such as Basil and Marjoram. Generally, the traditional flowers such as narcissuses, ferns, and scarlet geraniums are predominant.