According to legend, when Feidias was sent to Delos in exile, the bad weather forced the boat carrying him to stop in Tinos, where he stayed for a sufficiently long time to teach his art to the local inhabitants. Bell towers, sculpted marble iconostases, icon stands, bishop’s thrones, altars, funereal monuments, monuments to heroes, springs, busts, and statues that decorate churches, cemeteries, and squares all over Greece are the work of artists from Tinos. You will see some of their sculptures in the museums of the island and you will learn many things about marblework in the Μuseum of Marble Crafts in Pirgos.
This craft developed on the island for many reasons. One of the reasons is the existence from ancient times of many quarries of white marble. Another reason is the rock formations shaped by the north wind all over the whole island of Tinos, whose eternal change constitutes a true inspiration for artists. The roots of marblework can be placed in the years of Venetian rule – but there are no sources that document the events that led to the establishment of the craft. The 18th century was the era when marble work went past the boundaries of the island, reaching Constantinople, Smyrna, Odessa, and Mount Athos. Then, competition developed among the villages and workshops, a fact that took the quality of the craft one step further.
Thus, a tradition developed, which inspired the great artists of the 19th century: Chalepas, Filippotis, the Sochos brothers, and the Fytalis brothers. After liberation from the Turks, the marble-workers from Tinos settled in Athens, where workshops of marble sculpture opened. They have worked on almost all the monumental projects in Athens: the restoration of the Parthenon, the Old Royal Palace, the Arsakeio School, the University, the Polytechnic School, the National Library, the Academy, Zappeio, and the Archaeological Museum. Even most recently, most of the marble-workers who worked on the conservation of the Acropolis came from Tinos. Today, the tradition continues in the workshops of Pirgos and Ysternia and of course at the School of Fine Arts in Pirgos (www.tinosartschool.gr).
For information and video about the personality and work of the famous sculptor Giannoulis Chalepas, please visit the following websites: