CoHeN project has given the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thesprotia the opportunity to undertake restoration and enhancement work on the medieval castles of Igoumenitsa and Margariti. These two monuments are currently in a ruinous state and remain largely unknown to the scientific community, local society and the wider public.
The work which began in May 2020 has been ongoing without interruption up until now and is expected to be completed during spring 2022. The aim is to fully reveal the architectural layout of the two castles and to carry out any work necessary to ensure their structural integrity, as well as to improve the accessibility of their interior areas for visitors.
Igoumenitsa castle is easily accessible through the grove that surrounds it. This is currently undergoing regeneration work, carried out by the Municipality of Igoumenitsa.
The creation of an access path from the parking area to the gate of the Margariti castle, which involves only minimal impact on the environment of the monument, is being undertaken within the framework of the project. The enhancement work in the entrance area of the castle is due to be completed by the spring of 2022.
Τhe systematic clearance of the vegetation which had completely covered the fortifications and the rest of the buildings in the interior of the castles, as well as the removal of large volumes of collapsed building material, is bringing to light on a daily basis new evidence regarding the architecture of the two monuments.
For example, we are now able to revise the previous picture we had about Igoumenitsa castle, where the interior constructions were not visible. During the work, buildings from various chronological phases were revealed, offering important new evidence regarding how the castle was laid out. Buried until recently beneath vegetation, the main gate of the monument consists of two well-built stone pillars, while the gate itself would have been secured by a substantial beam. Walkways in front of the towers of the eastern parts of the fortification were stone-paved.
Successive construction phases, which were undertaken more or less systematically, have revealed further fragments of the history of the castle. The collapsed domed ceiling of the tower in the northeastern corner points to a major catastrophe at an unknown time in the past. In addition, the discovery of dozens of cannonballs of various sizes underlines the turbulent history of the area during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the castle of Margariti, the domed constructions around the central courtyard appear to be much larger than what was previously understood. They were probably used for the storage of supplies and water, sufficient for the residents of the fortified house on the upper floor of the castle. Apart from the bathroom which was already known about, a well-constructed latrine was identified on the eastern side of the courtyard.
Restoration of the masonry of the walls of the two monuments, which had deteriorated significantly over the years, is a particularly time-consuming and labour-intensive task. Specialised scientific and technical staff has been employed for this purpose. For the restoration work, in-situ collapsed material is being used to rebuild the outer faces of the walls, following their original profiles.
Special plaster mixes of the appropriate mortar compositions are being applied based on the analysis of the original materials used in the castles. Their application is preceded by a complete and intensive dry and then wet cleaning. The building stones, many of which have moved slightly, are repositioned and the mortar is carefully placed between the joints, following the contours of the stones so that their shape is clearly visible.
With the completion of the work, the two castles will be accessible and form part of the common cultural route between Greece and Italy, linking important cultural heritage monuments from both countries. The two castles form part of the identity of the region, not only as sources of history, but also as the social memory of its residents.
The wider region will be benefited in many different ways, such as an increase in the number of visitors. The two castles will create new points of interest not only for them but also for the residents of the area who will be able to include them in their everyday activities and walks.