Folk-Lore/Volume 30/Prentice Pillars: the Architect and his Pupil

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Folk-Lore, Volume XXX (1919)
Prentice Pillars: the Architect and his Pupil by Frederick William Hasluck

Prentice Pillars: the Architect and his Pupil.

(vol. xxix. p. 219).

I have lately had sent me the collection of folk-tales done by Politis for the Marasli library (Mελέται περὶ τοῦ βίου καί τῆς γλώσσης τοῦ Ἑλληνικοῦ Λαοῦ Παραδόσεις, 1904, I, II.—a third volume is still promised). The story of the “Master and Apprentice” is told in connection with the church of B.V. the Consoler—Our Lady of Consolation sounds better—on p. 119 of the first volume, with reference in the notes (II. 804) to Travlantonis in an Athenian weekly paper (Ἑστία, 1895, 116f) probably not to be had in London: but Politis simply reprints (he still works hard), and the Παραδόσεις is standard. The story was evidently unknown to Politis in other Greek or Graeco-Turkish localities. I give a summary, as there are some curious variations from the ordinary scheme.

Thousands of years ago a great architect of those times drew out the plans for the church. When he had done so, before the work began, he was called away to another job, and went away, leaving his pupil, who was also his adopted child, in charge. During his absence the pupil completed the church, introducing perfections not in the plans. The master, finding this on his return, was filled with jealousy. He said to the pupil “Yes, you have certainly done better than the plan, but surely you have got it a bit askew there [I think a dome is meant, the word is κιόχη—for κόγχη?—and the Arta church has five domes]. Come up and I’ll show you.” So they went up, and the master said to the boy, “Bend down and you’ll see it’s askew.” The boy did so, and the master took advantage to push him down. But as he slipped he clutched at the master, and they fell together and were killed. And they were turned into stones, a big and a little, which are still to be seen.

The “stones” do not seem to be reliefs, as they are at Paris; they are described as “stones that look like humps (?) underneath” (λιθάρια που φαίνονται κάτω σὰν καμπούραις), the last word being, I suppose, the Turkish kambour, but I have no dictionary here, and it is the kind of word dictionaries don't have anyway.

I find to-day in Henri Welschinger’s Strasbourg (Paris, 1905). p. 64, à propos of an astronomical clock made 1352:

“Une légende, qu’on faisait circuler encore au temps de mon enfance, voulait que l’auteur de l’horloge merveilleuse, ayant été amené devant l’évêque, celui-ci lui aurait demandé si rien ne manquait au précieux instrument. Et sur sa réponse affirmative que l’horloge pouvait maintenant défier les siècles, l’évêque aurait fait crever les yeux au malheureux inventeur pour l’empêcher d’en construire une semblable.”

An old lady here tells me she heard the apprentice legend in the same city. Victor Hugo (le Rhin) might easily have it if the clue is worth following. The standard work on the cathedral seems to be. Dacheux’ folio Histoire (Paris, 1900).

I send three references to Greek buildings of which the story is current. I do not think they are in Politis’ great quarry of Greek folk-lore.

(1) Paros; church of the Virgin of the 100 gates—Bernard Randolph, Archipelago (late 17th c).

(2) Scripou, Boeotia; ch. of—R. W. Schultz and Barnsley, The Monastery of S. Luke at Stiers, ad fin.

(3) Arta; church of Virgin of Consolation—J. Psycharis, Autour de la Grèce, Paris 1897, p. 347.

I have not as yet found the story in Turkey or Syria: it may well have come to Greece from the West.

Beau Reveil, Leysin, Switzerland.