Woodcarving: Armoires and dowry chests
While visiting the Heartland of Legends villages, you can admire the traditional architecture and you might even get a glimpse of the inside of a traditional house. In the afternoon hours, women sit at the doorsteps of their homes with the doors open, drinking coffee and gossiping the latest news.
The room where guests are welcomed is always spacious, furnished and decorated with the family’s most priced heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation. A magnificent wood carved armoire or chest is usually placed at a prominent spot against a wall, bedecked with exquisite lace and embroidery, displaying silver or copperware on its shelves. These armoires and chests are made of Cyprus pine or cypress wood and are expertly decorated with hand carvings. Local artisans, renowned for their skill and talent, passed down their craft from father to son. You can spot a wide variety of wood carvings, depicting flowers and birds – symbols of love – animals, like lions, which represent power and strength, the Holy Cross and other religious symbols declaring people’s faith and devotion.
The typical armoire consists of a two-door cabinet with a drawer under each door. On the doors’ inner side, you can usually see scribbled down names of family members with their dates of birth. Inside the cabinet, there are two additional drawers and a hidden compartment called “hostra”.
To find the hidden compartment, one must remove one of the inner drawers and shift the wood beneath to the side to reveal a secret safe box for silverware and jewellery.
The precious trousseau of the lady of the house was stored inside the armoires: handwoven linen, delicate crochet tablecloths and cotton blankets, embroidered towels and needlepoint doilies. Unmarried girls would spend countless hours weaving and embroidering. Once married, the dowry chest was carried to the new house and was later given to the firstborn girl.
If you stay at one of the traditional houses along the Heartland of Legends route, take some time to observe these magnificent pieces of treasured furniture that are still proudly displayed. Think of the belongings that they have treasured for centuries, along with the family secrets of generations, still standing proud and silent in front of you in the present time.