The Shapes of Santorini


A white building with an arched roof stands next to a white building with a domed roof.
Soft hazy light accentuates the classic shapes of a white dome and arch in the villiage of Finikia, Santorini, Greece.

Countless domed and arched roofs grace Santorini. As there is little wood on the island, traditionally many of the buildings are constructed out of the abundant volcanic stone, which makes arched and domed roofs very practical. While the examples above are quite spare from the side shown, typically churches are adorned with crosses and bells and the other buildings with colorful windows and doors.

A bell-tower with three bells stands on a white church with blue trim and a blue dome.
The Prophet Elias Holy Orthodox Church stands below the clear Mediterranean sky, Santorini, Greece.
A blue dome topped by a small white cross sits on top of a stone building comprised of three arched sections in a row.
A classic blue dome sits above a three-arched roof in Oía, Santorini, Greece.

As these examples show, individual buildings on Santorini often display strong graphic shapes, but when looking at many buildings together the effect is much more jumbled.

A jumble of predominantly white buildings are packed on a slope amidst twisting staircases and alleys.
A chaotic jumble of buildings, stairs, and paths cascades down the slopes of Oía, Santorini, Greece.

Barely visible in the above image are snippets of alleys and stairways. The alleys are narrow and the steps are frequent. Construction supplies are carried on the backs of workers and donkeys, although I personally saw more of the former than the latter. I have no idea how a refrigerator would be delivered, and pianos seem out of the question. And while the smaller villages seem to be away from the caldera where the terrain is less steep, they are still filled with narrow tortuous pathways. I did not see a single wheelchair on the island in the week I was there and they definitely seem like they would have near-zero utility. I assume that a decidedly non-sedentary lifetime spent climbing up and down these pathways minimizes the need for them.

Technical notes. All four photographs in this post were taken with a Nikon Z7 using either a Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S or Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens. All were processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic; the final two photographs received additional processing using Affinity Photo.

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