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Mitato (or Kumos) - the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
Culture . Tradition

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete

  • A little bit Greek will help to read and understand the post: 1 Mitato = Mitáto, more than 1 = Mitát(emphasis on the first a)

A Mitato (also called Kumos) is a massive stone construction

that functioned as dairies in the mountainous countryside in Crete. Because the breeders spent several days in the mountains they had to have a lodge to live and be protected from the bad weather in the winter. Thus they created the Mitata, which became the center of their nomadic life on the mountain.

The name Mitato derives from the Latin word metatum which meant military accommodation. The word passed to the Byzantines in the sense of temporary accommodation.

Mitata are linked to Minoan tombs

The architects refer to the Mitato as hut or vaulted house. Of particular interest is the archaeological view that links them to the Minoan tombs. The similarity of the Mitato with the circular graves of the Minoan period is certain after the discovery in Fourni of Archanes in 1965 of an unrobbed royal tomb. Of course, there are clear differences, since the Mitata are smaller in diameter than the tombs. The Mitato is built from the hard stone of the region, while the tombs are made of uneven stones and mortar. The Mitato is above the ground, the graves being half-underground.

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
A large Mitato in the Nida mountains in Central Crete

Cultural value

Their cultural value is also revealed by the fact that the Archaeological Service has declared the Mitata of Anogia as preserved monuments. Staying in their Mitato, the shepherds from Anogia often receive visits from friends, acquaintances or just passers-by, whom they gladly welcome and sympathize with their traditional cheeses and a glass of wine.

You can meet them almost in all the mountainous villages of the prefectures of Chania and Rethymnon, especially in the villages of Psiloritis (here is the oldest Mitato on the plateau of Nida, dating back to 1841) and the White Mountains.

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
Another Mitato also in the Nida Mountains.

Their architecture

A Mitato can withstand the damage of nature and time, and this is due to their excellent construction. They are a creation of a simple man to meet his survival needs. And they are works by craftsmen who include the local stone in the traditional architecture of mountainous Crete.

The main feature of a Mitato is the curved inner perimeter of the wall, which often approaches the circle, while the exterior wall can be circular or angled. Large stones are used near the base to shift the center of gravity to the base and accept that weight. In the upper part they placed plates of irregular shape, one above the other, with an outward inclination, so that the rain water flows. Between the outer and the inner side of the wall, which serves as a roof of the Mitato, is the filling of smaller stones of irregular shape, which acts as a counterweight. A safe opening functions as door.

The circular shape of the building symbolizes the communal way of life, equality between the members who reside there and the interaction of one in the life of the other. They all work as a group, sleep together and warm up from the same fire.

It usually consists of a cheese-making room (made of two stones perpendicular to the perimeter of the wall), the uphill, the doors (stone cupboards inside the wall) to store tools and / or food and outside the dining room.

Life in a Mitato

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
The breeders produced cheese from the fresh milk.

There, in primitive places, with primitive means and empirical knowledge, the breeders produced cheese from the fresh milk.
In order to be allowed to build a Mitato, the flock had to have 150 animals or more. Few had so many animals and their own Mitato. Most had few sheep or goats. That’s why they created a kind of seasonal cooperatives, of 5-6 members each, who mixed their sheep into a flock. These associates were called Fitsiadori.

Feasts in the Mitato

Every year there are two great celebrations in the Mitata of Psiloritis. The first celebration is a ritual and is usually held from mid May to mid June. On the occasion of the shearing of the sheep, relatives and the shepherd’s friends, gather together in the Mitata and all together shear the sheep.

Mitato (or Kumos) – the shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Crete
Lamb Antikristo. This photo is from a tavern at the springs of Argyroupoli, but it helps to understand!

So there is a small feast in which Risitika songs, the Lamb Antikristo (the traditional way of baking the lamb where the pieces of meat are placed around the fire and not over it and baked for several hours) and the wine dominate.

The second big event is the Feast of Mitata. The celebration of Agios Mamas the protector of the animals is also a celebration of the Mitata. In July the shepherds with their families and friends go to a church and light a candle for the Saint that protects them and then gather in the Mitata. There, men are milking the sheep and women are cooking traditional dishes. Again, a small feast is set up to celebrate the shepherds with plenty of food, wine and Raki.

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