Visit the home of a heroine

• Category: Interviews

She is thought as the greatest woman of her time and one of the most important fighters of the Greek Revolution against the Ottomans. Her name has been given to many streets all over Greece as a sign of commemoration and pride. Her figure also appeared on the Greek 1 drachma coin. After her death, Lascarina Bouboulina, the famous heroine from Spetses island, became the first woman to be awarded the rank of Admiral by the Russian Navy.

Born in May 1771 in a prison in Constantinople, where her mother had visited her husband, kept there for his participation in an unlucky revolutionary attempt in Peloponnese the year before, young Lascarina was raised in Hydra till the age of four. As her father had died in prison a bit after her birth, her mother married again in 1775 to a rich man from Spetses, where they moved. Since then, Spetses island is connected to Bouboulina. There, at the age of 17, she got married to Dimitris Yannouzas, a wealthy trade man, who was later killed in a sea fight against pirates. At the age of 30, she gets married to Dimitris Bouboulis, from whom she took her name (Bouboulina). He also gets killed from pirates in 1811. Lascarina Bouboulina is left widow for the second time, with seven children from her two marriages and an immense fortune at her disposal.

As she turns out to be a great businesswoman, Lascarina builds three ships of her own, which arms with strong canons and when the Revolution outbreaks in 1821 against the Ottoman Turks, Bouboulina participates with her ships and many men from Spetses. With her largest ship, Agamemnon, she takes part in the liberation of Nafplion and then she contributes to the liberation of Tripoli, the Ottoman centre in Peloponnese. Only after two years from the beginning of the Revolution, Bouboulina has spent all her fortune for the needs in war equipment, ships and food. Unfortunately, the end of this great heroine was unlucky. In May 1825, Lascarina Bouboulina is killed in the yard of her house in Spetses, during a quarrel with members of the local Koutsis family, as her son had eloped with the daughter of the family. After her death, her ship Agamemnon was donated to the Greek State and became the flagship of the Greek Navy. Her bones are kept today in the State Museum of Spetses and her descendants have made her home a museum for people to visit and pay their tributes.

Mr Philip Demertzis-Bouboulis, a descendant of Bouboulina, leads the effort for the renovation of her home, close to Dapia harbor in Spetses Town. A fourth generation descendant of Bouboulina from his mother, Mr Demertzis-Bouboulis has talked to us about the project to renovate this 300-year-old mansion and turn it into a museum. "I founded the Museum of Bouboulina in 1991. That time, the building was in a tragic situation and its reconstruction would cost much money, which was not available. We resided the house then and every summer many people would knock our doors asking to see the house where Bouboulina had lived. Most times, we allowed them to see the front yard and they complained that the house is still inhabited and not open to public. Therefore, after the demand of the people and the needs for reconstruction, I came with the idea to turn the house into a private museum with an entrance ticket, as I had seen in palaces and towers abroad, where their owners would do the exact same thing to get the financial sources for the preservation of the buildings."

So, the house already works as a museum the last 18 years…

Yes, the house of Bouboulina is open to the public and this project has been quite successfull till now. I believe the success of this project is due to the tour guiding that is available in Greek and English. There are also brochures with the story of Bouboulina and of the house in 12 languages. Visitors pass through the front yard to the first floor and the tour lasts for about 40 minutes. There are more than 10 tours every day in summer that start in pre-arranged hours. For now, four rooms are open to visitors in the first floor and it is planned that next year another room will open with the story of the descendants of Bouboulina. Moreover, we are creating a library in the second floor and when it is ready, it will be open to students, historians or anyone who has an interest in history.

Can you describe us the mansion and its exhibits?

As far as we know, the mansion was built around 1660-70 by a Mauritian architect who had studied in Florence, Italy. It has an internal front yard, which is characteristic of the rich houses that time. It is a two-storey building with arches in the ground and the first floor. It is made of stone and the walls are about 1 meter wide, with defense elements, like embrasures and heavy doors. There are also two additional buildings of later date, which were reconstructed in the recent works. As it was used that time, the ground floor had the additional rooms, like the kitchen, store houses and laundries.

The first floor had the reception areas (living rooms and dining room) and the second floor is where the bedrooms were. Now, the ground floor has been renovated and it is the residence of the descendants. The first floor is the actual museum and the second floor is closed to public, but it has two guestrooms. The furnishing of the house dates from the 18th century. The most important part of the house is the wooden ceiling of the living room, constructed in Florence about 300 years ago. There are also china items, paintings and gravures of the heroine, personal items of her, ship models, maps, weapons, old books, handmade letters, rare Byzantine icons and many other valuable items. All exhibits that date before 1830 belong to my personal collection, which I inherited from my parents, along with the house. Some of the items, like weapons, icons and some furniture, have been preserved by the experts of the Athens War Museum over the last years.

When did Bouboulina live in this house?

This house belonged to the second husband of Bouboulina, Dimitrios Bouboulis, one of the richest men on the island that time. She moved in this house when she married Bouboulis in 1801 and stayed till her death, in 1825. Actually, when the Revolution broke out, she was living here. The house has been declared historically preserved since 1925.

The Museum of Bouboulina in Spetses is open every day from late March to late October. In winter, it is closed due to reconstruction works.