Balkan villages

cities &



A timeline of architecture


1st Century


Hadrian arrives in Hereaclea Lyncestis and begins the building of the ampitheatre.



Clockwise from top-left: Heraclea Lyncestis; Basilica of Ayios Achillios; Sveta Sofia; Samuel's fortress

The early Christian church adopted the basilica structure from the Romans, who used 'Basilica' as public buildings. These three aisled churches are still standard in Western Christianity, but to an extent went out of fashion with the Eastern Orthodox church.

It was Tsar Samuel who built Prespa's famous basilica, whose ruins still stand on the island of Ayios Achillios. And at the same time, he built his commanding fortress on the hill side above the city and lake of Ohrid.

10th and 11th Century


Hermitage of Panayia Eleousa

14th and 15th Century


In the 1380s, Prespa, Ohrid and the wider region were conquered by the Ottomans. At about the same time, some Christian monks, possibly fleeing from the arrival of Turks in their old episcopal centres, sought refuge in the caves on the Prespa lakes. Some of their hermitages remain today.


Mountain villages were a step behind the towns and cities, both because of poverty and the isolation; no asphalt roads over mountain passes in those days.


By the early 1800s there were some 11,500 inhabitants only in Greek Prespa (currently about 1,000), but no houses remain before the 1800s. Religious sites before the 1800s were built from stone, but houses of the time, and for most of the 1800s, were still built from mud bricks).

19th Century - in the villages of Greek Prespa*


Village architecture


The first houses are understood to have been one floor, with a large single room or a divide into two rooms. (L. Vafeiadis, E Prespa kai oi omorfies tis, Athens 1940), but very few remain in Greek Prespa. Some were possibly converted to build bigger houses or stables, some have likely been destroyed.


Mid-19th century

Two storey houses with a special balcony area appear, as seen throughout the Balkans and Minor Asia. This "half-outside" room allowed farmers, fishermen and housewives to work with some cover and convenience.

End of 19th century

The Ottoman empire is falling apart and nation states have eyes on its territory. Various regional wars break out either side of World War One, with a huge exodus from the Prespa region taking place during the 'Macedonian Struggle' of 1903. Still, influenced by local cities, those who stayed in the region moved away from the open-fronted houses. Ornamental features and protruding upper floors appear.

Inter-war years

After the First Balkan War and World War One, the region enjoyed some prosperity until World War Two. People returned from abroad and large stone houses were made, some in 'foreign' styles with fancy brickwork and decorations.

* Why only Greek Prespa?

The inspiration for this section was an excellent book, 'Greek Traditional Architecture: Prespes', by the Melissa Publishing House. Whilst a lot of the information in it can apply to village architecture throughout much of the wider region, and other parts of the former Ottoman Empire, the dates and numbers are specific to studies done in Greek Prespa.


The book is available in English and Greek, and is certainly worth buying because it expertly explains how architecture reflected the history of the region and people's daily lives. Its cross-section diagrams and explanations of how buildings were constructed are also fascinating.


Architecture in the Cities





0044 (0)7506 381757



Unit 8A, Red Lane Mill, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, LS28 5UJ




  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Vimeo Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

Subscribe to the Blog for new post updates