Immigration was the element that mostly defined how the population evolved in Thira since the 13th century. Like other Cycladic islands it was the place where hundreds of emigrants form all parts of Europe and Greece took refuge. After the fall of Constantinople to the Latins in AD 1204 and the creation of the Duchy of the Archipelago in AD 1207 the Cyclades were overwhelmed by swarms of emigrants who, in their majority but not exclusively, were Venetians.

At the same time and probably a bit later, individuals and families from other European countries such as Spain, Portugal and France made the same move. Those who came from Byzantine territories made up a second large group and they settled down in Santorini and Crete. The third migratory wave consisted of those who came from other Greek parts such as the Peloponnese, the Ionian islands, the Aegean islands, Asia Minor etc. They emigrated to Santorini after the first quarter of the 19th century.

As Nicholaos Aliprantis writes ..."all these immigrants, Orthodox, Catholic, Byzantine, Latin, Greek were assimilated to the native element and presented a homogeneous body, a wondrous medley whose fate and life was common...".

On the other hand many families had to flee after pirate attacks or natural disasters, a fact which influenced the population development. Their destination was mainly Crete where the Venetians could provide greater security.

In the modern Greek state the island belonged to the prefecture of Thira which also included the islands of Thirassia, Amorgos, Anafi, Donousa, Herakleia, Ios, Koufonissia, Shinoussa. In the last two centuries Santorini presented a smooth development of the population, so she had the greater increase in 1851, presenting a slump in 1920 which became more intense between 1951 -1961, when the earthquake forced people to desert the place.

The two doctrines

The residents of Santorini were Christians but belonged in two different doctrines: Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Catholics came from Venetian nobles who ruled the island for centuries. The need for peaceful coexistence of the two doctrines, lead to the joint use of several churches with different altars. The church of Panagia Episkopi had been the "bone of contention" for years.

The poor peasants were Greek Orthodox and were obliged to rent and cultivate the land for the wealthy outlandish Catholic landowners. Catholic aristocracy and Orthodox church owned the best pieces of land.

The feudal system had been applied in the farming of the land and by contract the working peasants worked and got paid by keeping half of the crop. Peasants worked for specific landowners and acquired rights to the exploitation of their land, which they legated to the next generation. In the beginning of the 20th century the situation started to change and the peasants acquired vineyards and properties.

Basic entertainment for the residents were the "veggeres" (gatherings in houses). The Santorinians were interested mainly about their family and village. Their subconscious need was to be united, so as to survive nature's blows, the financial tightness and the lack of telecommunications. In fact, all jobs were hand-operated, or assisted by animals and winds. Until the years following the 1956 earthquake, in the night they used bulbs, lanterns and lamps. Towards the end of the 1950's, electricity brought on the island, helped growth.


Sources: "Thira, a march through time", by Antonis K. Kontaratos/Heliotopos Publications. "Santorini: Society and Shelter, 15th-20th century", by Dr Dora Monioudi-Gavala/A publication of Lukas and Evangelos Bellonias Foundation.