The famous stone built mandras of Lemnos are the most characteristic feature of the rural landscape of the island. These are traditional farms that were built to house and serve the needs of the Lemnian “kehaghiades” (stockbreeders / farmers).
The dense presence of mandras in Lemnos (almost 2000 can be found today, many of them abandoned but some are still in use) has created a continuous system, allowing humans to establish their presence in the fields and pastures across the whole island.
The mandras of Lemnos are built out of local materials such as stone, clay, reeds and seaweed, while wood was transported from neighboring islands, Thrace and Mt Athos. Their construction technique remains unchanged over the centuries. Their layout and organization are directly linked to the purposes they served, including storage rooms, animal sheds but also a special space for lodging or permanent residence.
The mandras served as wider multi-functional areas, fenced with a dry-stone wall, inside which lie the main buildings and traditionally the threshing floor, a built oven and a small vegetable garden. On the periphery of the mandra extend the pastures and/or arable land with cereals and legumes to produce food for human consumption and fodder for the animals.
Featuring a rare aesthetic, fully in tune with the natural landscape, this unknown – and often overlooked – architectural element encompasses in its entirety the traces of an ancient folk culture that has been living and developing continuously and seamlessly on the island for centuries.
The gradual abandonment of the majority of mandras since the 1960s and the concentration of livestock in fewer hands in recent decades have interrupted the traditional balanced relationship between the natural environment and man, leading to intensification of agricultural practices in some parts of the island, in parallel with neglect or even abandonment in others – both, with negative environmental impacts.