If you come to Pyrgi for your first time, you will be amazed at the decoration of the front view of the houses. This technique is called ksysto and is unique in the whole Greece. The alternation of white and black in patterns on the walls, give a unique aspect in the streets and squares of the village.
There are many opinions about the origin of ksysta. All however agree that ksysta is a technique that was brought to Chios. According to tradition ksysta came from Genoa of Italy, during the Genoese rule. But Genoese had the technique but did'nt use such patterns. Another opinion supports that ksysta came from Constantinople with Giorgos Kountouris. We only know about Kountouris that when he died he left his knowledge to his sons Nikolaos and Konstantinos.
No matter where ksysta originate from, it is certain that the people of Pyrgi loved them and used ksysta for many years for the decoration of their houses.
The sons of Kountouris worked two decades before and after the second world war. Philippos Argentis on 1934 let them decorate with ksysta a lot of buildings at the central square of Pyrgi as well as at the northern side Saint Stefanos' temple. The repair of ksysta at the eastern side of Virgin Mary's temple has also been done. Students of Nikolaos Kountouris are Isidoros Paplos, I. Nomikos and G. Bolas. G. Bolas in particular is considered the reformer of new period for ksysta. His greater work is the decoration of the temple dedicated to the Presentation of Theotokos to the Temple. With expense of the National Organism of Tourism the same craftsman decorated in 1968 many residences at the central square of Pyrgi. He also decorated hotel Handri and the Commercial Bank at Chora.
Almost all the builders at Pyrgi know the technique of ksysta. Three people are needed for creating ksysta. The first craftsman lays the butter-coat and engraves forms. Then his assistant follows him and scrapes the engraved patterns. The third person is a worker who does not do any artistic work but prepares the materials and also gives to the other two what they need. The materials used are cement, lime and sea sand or sand from a river.
The worker mixes the materials and gives the mixture to the craftsman. He lays with a trowel the mixture on the surface that he will decorate. Then he whitewashes all the previous surfaces, passing two or three hands in cross form. Just when it dries a little, he engraves the patterns on the surface using diabetes, stick, spirit level, tape line and stylus. The engraving is done from top to bottom and in horizontal areas of about 20 cm width. Then the assistant scrapes lightly with a fork the surface of lime to reveal the dark sub layer. Usually the patterns are geometrical but in certain cases the craftsman improvises and creates freely patterns. He chooses subjects from nature, and rarely he draws people or animals. Ksysta have been given various names by the craftsmen, names inspired by what they look like.
Geometrical or not, on houses or on temples, ksysta is a uniquety not only of Chios but also of the entire Greece. If you visit Pyrgi you will feel intense admiration for the beauty of patterns of ksysta and you will also love the village. Your visit will remain unforgettable!