Blue Doors and Windows

Amorgos Door

Windows and doors are an essential part of the historic and architectural character of any building and I find them interesting because they represent the transition between the public and the private world. In ancient Rome the holes in the sides of the buildings were appropriately called ‘wind eyes’.

While we wander through Greek islands as temporary guests we are only generally allowed to see the exterior of buildings and the doors and windows of the houses offer a tantalising voyeuristic vision of a private life beyond that we can only guess at or imagine.

My favourite doors are in the Cyclades where, next to the white that we all associate with the islands, the prevailing colour is blue and this colour combination has become a trademark of the islands.

It turns out that this isn’t just because it is a favourite of the people who live there or that the local hardware store simply overstocked and sold it off cheap in a clearance sale, the widespread use emanates from an ancient belief that the sky-blue shade of turquoise has the power to keep evil away.  It is believed that the radiation of the colour composes a sort of invisible shield, which prevents the approach of bad spirits.

Blue is used everywhere in the Cyclades, church cupolas, windows, doors, walls, staircases and fences which provide blue ‘belts’ around buildings, which supposedly provide protection against evil.  Turquoise stones on jewellery, belts and weapons are put there to safeguard people, animals and even plants.  Blue ‘eyes’ and blue stones mounted on gold and silver are presented to babies and small children as a talisman for protection and in the Greek Boy Scouts all the boys where a sky-blue scarf around their necks for this very same reason.

Blue Door Tenerife

 These days I suppose people just use ‘Dulux’, or whatever the equivalent is in Greece, but in the past the blue paint that the painters used was the product of powdered turquoise stone or a mixture of copper from Cyprus and sand and the most expensive paint was made with the plant ‘Indian cyanus’.

Architectural parts of public buildings, such as the Parthenon in Athens, as well as villas in Pompeii and Rome, were painted in turquoise.  For two thousand years, the finest turquoise has been mined in what used to be called  Persia and even today this region has remained the most important source of turquoise, for it is here that fine material is most consistently recovered. Turquoise mined in Persia used to arrive in Europe by way of the trade route through Turkey and the word turquoise is a French word that means ‘stone of Turkey’.

In the Cyclades the combination of blue and white is also a matter of law.  Since 1974, by a decree passed by the ruling military government of the time (the Generals), houses have had to be painted white, it is said as a patriotic gesture to represent the colours of the Greek flag.  Recently a big debate has been re-opened between the Ministry of Culture and other authorities about allowing the use of alternative colours but as yet the law remains in place although some island authorities have begun to sometimes permit light ochre, pink, and some other pastel colours.

The custom of painting doors blue extends way beyond Greece and is common across the entire world.  Even today in provinces of Spain buildings are decorated with blue bands and designs, houses in Egypt, in the Arab villages of Israel, and entire villages in Morocco, have blue walls.  The same turquoise colour decorates the houses of Mexican Indians and the Amish in Pennsylvania in the United States always paint their doors blue because, just as in Greece, many folk magic traditions and customs maintain that a witch cannot cross a blue threshold and according to such belief, a blue door is an effective barrier against evil, much like laying a broom across the thresh hold, putting salt on the windowsills or a hanging a horseshoe above the door.

Considering how important blue doors are I had a look at the official LEGO website looking for blue doors, but I was disappointed to discover that they apparently have never made blue classic doors. According to an enthusiast’s site however they did make the 1x3x4 medium (1970s) doors and door frames in blue but (can you believe this?) they were never sold with the same door and door frame colours in the same set.  Astounding!

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44 responses to “Blue Doors and Windows

  1. Legos don’t have blue doors, that’s surprising

  2. Gorgeous pictures and nicely crafted background story. It’s fascinating how important colour is!

  3. lovely doors! I also photograph doors in Greece (I haven’t blogged about them yet though) and there are so many wonderful ones. I love the ones that are shaggy with peeling paint.

  4. to sway the evils? interesting …

    And what’s up with European houses, they’re all white?

  5. See what you mean about it being a favourite subject.

  6. Hi,
    It has always amazed me the beautiful white and blue throughout Greece, it does look stunning especially when you see a whole lot of houses all together, like in your photo. 🙂

  7. Wow! What interesting trivia! I really enjoy the knowledge I gleen from your posts!

  8. I love these doors! Against white, it really stands out. I read that blue is also one of the more expensive colors and even reserved for royals centuries ago.

  9. Me too. I learn a little more with each post.
    Truth be told Andrew you only needed to post one of your blog pages up to satisfy this challenge!

  10. Interesting Lego info. My son works for a Sydney animation company currently making a major Lego movie. I’ll get him to pass the ‘no blue door story’ on to the art department.

  11. Thanks Andrew for pointing me to your Blue Doors (and more!).They are really lovely shots and you have interesting background information about them..My collection of ‘neighbourhood’ doors are all within half a mile of where I live, so its just an amble round with the camera, not even a bus ride! They all have a bit of character…..but don’t talk.Their history may be varied, but I get intrigued just as much with the fact that anyone walking round in the day time may not notice them as most are wide open by then……. and so they become hidden in broad day light…..unless they never open at all……..

  12. Andrew you are a vault of information. I absolutely did not know about the blue keeping away the evil spirits. I’m off to paint my door 🙂

  13. Interesting post for a Cyclades fan 🙂

  14. Thanks for such an interesting post, and (as always) photos that are candy to our eyes. 🙂

  15. White Greek buildings and blue doors have fascinated me. I love those two colors together.Thanks for the background information, Andrew.

  16. Wind eyes!! I think that’s going to stick with me for while 🙂
    It’s funny how the colour blue and warding off evil have been associated for a long time.

  17. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition | Have Bag, Will Travel

  18. Seriously beautiful doors this time. Love the blue love the composition. Those should be in a calendar or I’m greeting cards for sale somewhere.

  19. A very interesting blog post. I know the Chinese think that red is good luck, but this use of blue is clearly very widespread.

  20. There’s something about blue doors that makes us turn our heads and look, no matter how many blue doors I come across I marvel and smile at each and every one

  21. really? I never knew that about the Lego doors What a disappointment.

    I love the shades here, very tranquil and welcoming.

  22. Great post, Andrew. I wasn’t aware of the connection with blue warding off evil. I did, however, find the blue doors of the Greek Islands quite beautiful. –Curt

  23. How fascinating! I love blue and turquoise shades but never knew about the tradition of warding off evil spirits! I’ve always loved the combination of blue doors and whitewashed walls on the Greek islands but just assumed it was to offset the brilliance of the sun. I do have some blue and white tiles on a water feature in our courtyard so hope that will have the same effect 🙂

  24. Pingback: Morocco, Essaouira – More Blue Doors | Have Bag, Will Travel

  25. If the Christians and Muslims both use blue it means that the colour must predate 700AD at least. My daughter says that blue was the most easily available dye in the Mediterranean world in ancient times, because they made it from sea shells. Purple was very popular until the Roman and Byzantine emperors claimed it as their own on pain of death. Red and yellow were both a lot more expensive dyes than blue because they had to be imported, not picked up on the seashore. Obviously, once a fashion is established, it may persist long after its initial inception. In Cornwall, to prevent evil spirits, they put metal balls about a foot in diameter on the top of the roof to prevent witches etc from landing.. Have you come across anything like this in your travels?

  26. Blue doors – so homey, so Mediterranean 🙂

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