Kapesovo: The 16th-century Greek village where all inhabitants have ancient Greek names
Every Greek village, big or small, has its own beauty, uniqueness and special history.
From strange stories about how they received their names, to how many years they have been inhabited, villages and their traditions are a big part of Greek culture.
Many villages, both in mainland Greece and on the Greek islands, also stand out for their local dialect – which even Greeks from different areas themselves cannot understand – their local dishes and all the goods they produce.
Kapesovo, a green, picturesque, stone village of just 51 residents, that belongs to the Municipality of Zagori, is known for another, very unique reason; almost all its residents have ancient Greek names.
This is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for many years, and the locals of Kapesovo still continue to proudly follow it.
Kapesovo has been inhabited for about 4 centuries and was founded around the 16th century. It is located 43 km from the popular city of Ioannina, and it is also a short driving distance away from the gorge of Vikos.
The little village is also connected to other neighbouring villages, such as Vradeto, through stone paths, which are remarkable not only because of their charm but also because of the way they are built, with thin stone floors.
Besides its natural beauty, Kapesovo is an excellent example of traditional continental architecture. Impressive stone houses, well-preserved cobbled streets, imposing mansions, are all sitting harmoniously on the top of an imposing mountain, and create the perfect winter landscape.
Along with other villages in the area, it is perched above the ravine of Mezaria mountain in Zagori, at an altitude of 1120 m, and has been characterized by historians as a traditional Greek settlement.
In the 16th century, 20 families from the small village of Kapuska, which is located nearby Kapesovo, moved to the stone village and started building their own little community from scratch.
The first population census in the village, in 1928, counted 124 people, while the latest census in 2011, counted almost one-third of the initial population, just 51 people, as many residents moved to bigger metropolitan areas.
Even though today Kapesovo is smaller than ever before – in terms of its population – it is also louder than ever, as it has become a beloved touristic destination over the winter months.
In the centre of the village, there is one of the most beautiful monuments of the whole Zagori area, the stone church of Agios Nikolaos, which was built in 1793. The interior of the church is filled with extraordinary frescoes, made by the famous Kapesovite painters, with clear western influences.
In fact, the entire village of Kapesovo is famous for its artistic roots. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many of its inhabitants distinguished themselves around Greece as admirable artists. Some were painters and architects, while others were woodcarvers and hagiographers. Many of the churches of the villages in the Zagori and Epirus areas, were built and decorated by the locals of Kapesovo, who were known for their artistic talent.
Most of the residents of Kapesovo have ancient names, such as Plato, Clearchus and Thucydides, which are much rarer to find in all other parts of Greece.
This particular tradition started at the beginning of the 19th century for two main reasons: On one hand, because Kapesovo’s inhabitants received a classical education and studied ancient philosophers and writers, and on the other hand, because they wanted to keep alive their Greek spirit and what they called their “Greekness”, of their then Turkish-occupied village, during Ottoman rule.
Kapesovo, along with other villages in northern Greece, belongs to Zagorochoria (villages of Zagori), which is a complex of 46 villages in total, all with their own beauty and grace.
Zagorochoria is one of the top travel destinations among Greeks and are particularly famous for their stone houses, lush forests, secret little paths, and natural landscape, which changes from green to orange every season of the year.