History | Architecture| The Windmill



Α windmill is a wind turbine with a horizontal axis of rotation used for the milling of grain and water extraction.
The first windmill was designed by Heron of Alexandria, who was an engineer and a geometer, in the 1st century AD. It had a horizontal rotational axis and had four blades.
Even though they had appeared many centuries before, their use was established during the Byzantine period and became widespread during the Frankish period, mainly in the east Aegean but also in the mainland.
The first to use windmills seem to be the ancient peoples of the East. The windmill came to Europe from the Arabs and became widespread until the beginning of the 19th century, when it’s use gradually declines, due to the development of the steam engine. It’s final displacement began after the First World War.
In Greece the use of windmills was quite extensive because of the rich wind resources of the country.


On the top floor were the axis and the driveline, while on the bottom floor the grinding and storing of the grains took place. Their vanes were from cloth, with a length of 5-15 meters and a width 1/5 of their length. A windmill could grind 20-70 kilos of grain per hour, depending on the intensity and direction of the wind.
The main building of the mill was cylindrical and its roof was saddled. The building’s large volume was necessary for the stability of the mechanism, since it was exposed to high-intensity wings A small door, the mill’s entrance, lead to a small staircase. The inner space’s dimensions were such that the miller was neither crowded nor could make any unnecessary moves.
The small staircase lead to the windmill’s mechanism which consisted of wooden parts and the large stone millstones. Important in the construction of windmill was the role of the mill carpenter, who justly held a prominent position and reputation, which exceeded the limits of his island.
The construction of a windmill required special knowledge and excellent technical skills. For it to work, machining accuracy was necessary, which the mill carpenter regulated, putting to work all his art and experience of woodwork. The construction of a windmill required great effort, difficulty and patience. Suffice to say that the trunk which would serve as an axle, had to come from Mount Athos or Asia Minor, towed by a boat. If the boat encountered a storm, then they had to abandon the trunk, if they wanted to save the boat. As for the other parts of the mechanism, suitable wood had to be found so that it endured. They cut it when the moon was waning, so that it wouldn’t get infested by woodworm, and left it to dry in the shade.
The choice of location of the windmill was one of the most important issues that the miller and the craftsman needed to solve. The criteria were two: the vagaries of the wind, which were not easy to predict and the intentions of the pirates to seize the grain and flour, particularly once it was wrapped. So, a place had to be found that took advantage of the winds and away from harbours.
Characteristic of the windmill was the rotor which is located in front of the axle. It is a large tree trunk placed parallel and opposite to the direction of the wind. The rotor has antennas where the sails were wrapped, which with the help of the wind rotate the axle and the axle then rotates the millstone.
The millstone rotates with the help of the wheel, in other words a wooden gear, tangential to the reel. To orient the rotor, in other words the sails, perpendicular to the wind flow, the miller makes the rotation: the turn is achieved with a crowbar placed in appropriate holes.
The rotational speed depends on the surface of the sails. The braking is done with the help of a thick rope called sokaroschoino, which is tied securely around the axle.
Wheat (or barley, etc.) is positioned in the grain hopper, which is like a wooden funnel, which is connected to the “feeder”, a scoop leading the wheat to the millstone. The grained wheat, the flour, is concentrated in sacks or in the flour-chest.
The mill to the Miller is his workshop, his home and often his very soul. In the old days the miller held a special place in the society of the island and also highly respected was the running of the mill.
The saying “Even if you’re a priest you’ll go in line” was born right at the mills, where the order of priority was strictly kept.

The Windmill of Limnos

We find the most windmills in eastern Limnos. The existence of sufficient wind-power both in intensity and in frequency, were the necessary conditions for the operation of windmills.
So after the stone mills, which were initially, the windmills were created.
Most windmills, were owned by Turkish Beys in Baros in eastern Limnos. The Turks generally loved mills and taps. Owning a mill in the old days was considered a great fortune.
The mill of Lemnos was a common type, the well-known Aegean type, circular floor plan with horizontally rotating conical, with a roof of samaki (a type of cane) and also vertically rotating wooden waterwheel with the familiar triangular sail.
For the construction of the mill, the appropriate location has to initially be selected. The best location was usually at the highest point of the village, towards the north. For the mill to grind the northerly wind should not be too strong.
The orientation of the mill was very important, because the axle, which is mobile, rotates depending on the wind’s direction, so that the antennas can move with the direction of the wind.
The miller craftsmen then took over, who built the mill and the miller carpenters finished it. The millers used local stone for the masonry and kourasani as mortar. The kourasani was a mixture of sea sand, lime, earth from Lemnos and crushed tile. The kourasani generally protected the mill from moisture.
The mill has an equal diameter at the top and bottom (dT = dB). The typology of the internal structure and manufacturing is that the mills were two-storeyed (basement – attic / upper floor). The door and window were in the same layout as the door, at the side with the weaker wind and the windows in the corresponding axis (eg east – west). The staircase, in most cases, was made of stone and followed the circular shape of the tower.
The roof was conical. Its wooden frame was sealed with many layers of Samaki. On top of that was the weather vane which went through it, giving indication of the wind direction to the inside of the mill.
When the windmill didn’t have any orders for grinding, they left is a piece of cloth open on an antenna. People saw this and understood that they could go and grind. In 1304, according to an old record, there were three windmills operating on the island.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Lemnos was a granary of ancient Athens in classical times, that is why Athens occupied it, and later on also the supplier of wheat to the imperial court of Byzantium.
Even today, the hallmark of Lemnos are the sown wheat fields that reach the water’s edge.


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