The Mandres

This page is dedicated to featuring the Mandres, the home of my great Great Grandfather Thomas Katsoulakos (1795-1877). I went to Mani with the hopes of finding this place. With a map and a hand written piece of my family tree I was able to find my way to the village of Kelefa where some of my distant family still reside. A taxi driver from Aeriopolis , by the name of Elias, read my family name from the tree and drove into Kelefa and introduced me to a Katsoulakos woman who kindly called upon her sister, Maria, to show Sandra and I the way to the home of my Great, Great Grandfather. Maria and I found out quickly from the family tree that we are third cousins because our Great Grandfathers were brothers (Dimitrios and Nicholas Katsoulakos) Capt. Thomas' two sons. See more of our Journey to the Mandres
The "Mandres" is the name given to the home of Captain Thomas Katsoulakos (1795-1877).  I believe it translates to: stone wall or hedge row. The "Pirgos" is the tall standing, fortress section. Pirgos in Greek meaning: tower. The construction called "Pirgospita" (tower-house) is typical of the time when it was built. In the Mani, many Pirgospita are still standing from the 1700s and the early 1800s. This one built by my Great Great Grandfather was built around or before the 1820s. The stone construction makes it a venerable fortress. It is built on a mountain side where the family and clan members could refuge under threatening circumstances. The Mani was a wild region where bandits, and pirates roamed the land and sea. The maniots were also at war with the Turks at all times. There was also local feuding over land that resulted in family wars. Many refugees would go to the Mani after they lost everything to the Turks and they were hungry to stake a claim on land but if the land belonged to a Maniote whos family had been there for hundreds of years, there could be a war between the families. So they built houses such as this for protection and defense against would be intruders.
More on the history of the Mani and Captain Thomas here,  "The Mani".

The Katsoulakos name goes back hundreds of years. The story that has been passed on for generations is that the name was given to a man possibly 20 generations ago. It may have been the 1500's, when people wore cloaks and capes as clothing. The man was said to have a great cape and could climb like a cat, hence they name Katsou was applied, and since he was from the Mani region, Lakos was given, as they did to associate you with your region. Since moving to America my father shortened the name to Lakos. Many immigrants truncated their names to make the names more socially acceptable in the English speaking Americas.

This is my Great Great Grandfathers home, The Mandres, that he built after the Greek revolution around 1828. Next to the Mandres is another small home. This is not part of the original "pirgospita", house-tower, but was built sometime afterwards by one of Thomas Katsoulakos grandchildren. The Katsoulakos family have lived in that house for 140 years, My third cousin, Maria Katsoulakos was born and raised in that house, with no electricity or running water, until the age of 9 (1970 when they finally left the old house for more modern homes), when the family moved to the village of Kelefa where there were modern amenities. This picture is the Mandres as seen from the village Kelefa using a 360Xzoom.

 

The Mandres built around 1827-29 by Thomas Katsulakos (1795-1877). The house was built on a large plot of land, many, many acres, suggesting that Thomas Katsuolakos was a powerfull and capable being as you had to fight to keep what you claimed in the Mani. The land was most likely passed down from generation to generation. I don't think that serving in the war awarded him any more land as it did for many of the indigenous Greeks who fought in the war. Becasue in Mani , it was not plotted and ruled by Turkish Goverment, it was ruled by the strong families and clans well before the Turks made their move into Greece. The land is still in the Katsoulakos family. I was able to locate a family member by showing my family tree to a taxi driver in Aeriopolis. He waived Sandra and I into the taxi and drove to Kelfa where he knocked on one door to find a third cousin of mine. Maria Katsoulakos then showed us the way to the Mandres, when we made the 3 km hike up the mountain the next  morning. It was a hot day in early June. We were banging the ground with walking sticks to scare off any snakes baking in the Sun. The paths were grown in quite a bit but we peered through and finally made it to the grounds. It's an impressive sight. It's much bigger than what it seems from afar. And those gun turrets were not just there for looks this was reality. 

 

My ex-wife, Sandra in the Mandres olive groves. Sandra was scared to death when they told her to wear slacks for the hike because of snakes and bugs! It kept her moving fast on the difficult hike. It was well worth it as you can see the excitement in her expression. She knew this was a dream of mine come true. 

This trip inspired us to go to the Azores, Portugal to find Sandras family and places where her parents and grand parents were raised. Azores trip

 

Maria and Steve katsoulakos looking over some papers of family that my dad gave me. I also had a piece of the family tree that showed I am the direct descendant of Kapetan Thomas Katsoulakos (Great Great Grandson). Maria was very kind to us. We had very limited vocabulary but her knowledge of English helped a lot. She also took a lot of pride in this piece of family history and I think she was glad that I was exploring my Greek heritage. She to show us to the Mandres. I thought it was funny that she brought along a bag of old bread to treat the donkey and wild horses that still live around the Mandres. Apparently the donkey was older than her and she remembers the donkey from her earliest memories living at the Mandres.

 

I felt very proud and inspired in this place of my forefathers. Their struggle was immense and life was very tough. But they fought for their survival and freedom and honor. I didn't have a rifle to pose with so I grabbed this piece of wood ;)

 

Steve poses at the Mandres. Having only ever been told the stories of my Great Great Grandfathers and told that I am of Maniate decent, I could feel my connection with this place as I walked in the footsteps of my Great Grand fathers.

 

A million heart felt thanks to Maria Katsoulakos for showing us the way to the Mandres and sharing this piece of our families heritage. I don't know how many times she has done this for other Katsoulakos descendants but I could tell she was happy to see that I came all the way from America and that I really appreciated all the amazement that this historied land and house offers.

Maria and I are the same age (born in 1964) and I believe she is also 5th generation which is quite a remarkable coincidence.