The history of Gefira

tombThe trapezoid tomb located near the south-east part of the town with the numerous findings (such as coins and shells), the 3 burial tombs and the 30 graves dating from the 6th century BC to the 2nd century BC prove that the area used to be close to the sea in the ancient times, being an important trade & cultural center.

M.Tiverios, professor of Archeology and Maria Avloniti, archeologist, assume that the location of the important ancient city of Chalastra was probably near the trapezoid tomb.

The ancient town "Gephira" is referred to in "Itinerarium Burdigalense", the most important Christian itinerary which written between 333-334 AD by an anonymous pilgrim on his way from Bordeaux to Palestine and back. "Gephira" is referred to between Thessaloniki and Pella:

ciuitas thessalonica milia xiii
mutatio ad decimum milia x
mutatio gephira milia x
ciuitas polli, unde fuit alexander, magnus macedo milia x.

There is no evidence of any active settlements during the Roman & Byzantine eras. The first written proof of "Topsin" dates back to 15th century.

The majority of the people who established the new settlement migrated here from Metres in Eastern Thrace (now: Çatalca in Turkey) and from Sozoupolis in Eastern Roumelia (ancient: Apollonia, now: Sozopol in Bulgaria). wooden_bridge211 families relocated here from Metres while 231 families relocated from Sozoupolis. In addition there are many native families living in Kato Gefira plus a few families of Vlachs and Sarakatsani.  





metres1The town of Metres was located 60 Km north-west of Constantinopolis. Metres belonged to the Byzantine Empire until 1371 when it passed to the Ottoman rule.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were 275 Greek families and 250 Turkish families living in Metres. The Greeks were Orthodox Christians and belonged to the Holy Diocese of Metres and Athyra, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. St.George was the local church of Metres.metres2

The most important feast was held a week after Easter. The Greeks were celebrating the memory of "Panayia Revmatokratousa"  (the word Revmatokratousa means "keeper of the currents", a miraculous trait attributed to the  icon of Virgin Mary. After the Sunday church service the people used to visit a cave near the town and hold a second service there. Then the young men used to compete in horse races, wrestling and running. The people continued these traditions after they migrated to Gefira. In Metres there were a number of schools such as the "Photakios School" as well as separate schools for boys and girls.

The Greeks did diverse jobs in Metres (millers, grocers, tailors, etc). However the majority of the people were farmers and cattle-breeders. After the Treaty of Laussane was signed (July 24, 1923) the families were moved to their new country. They travelled by train to Alexanroupolis and then they sailed to Thessaloniki. There they had to be quarantined, decontaminated and stay temporarily in tents. A month later they moved to Topsin, where they stayed in temporary settlements. Between 1926-1928 they started to build their new homes.

sozopolis1Sozopolis or Sozoupoli (now: Sozopol) is a town in the west coast of the Black Sea. Its ancient name was Apollonia. It was established in the 7th century BC by Greeks from Militos, the famous Ionian city. Its name was changed to Sozopolis in the early Christian years and it means "saviour city" because it was a very safe port in the Black Sea. In 1370 Sozopolis passed to Ottoman rule.

The locals participated actively in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Many of them joined the "Filiki Eteria" which was the most important patriotic organization during the Greek revolution. Eastern Romelia becomes an autonomous province following the treaty signed in the congress of Berlin in 1878. Sozopolis becomes a part of E.Roumelia. However 6 years later Sozopolis passed to Bulgarian rule. In 1906 and in 1925 many Greeks left their homes and moved to Greece.

Before the migration there were 750 Greek families in Sozopolis.  Although most of them migrated to Greece, some families decided to stay in Sozopolis; their descendants are still speaking the Greek language and have close bonds with their relatives in Greece. Sozopolis belonged to the Holy Diocese of Andrianoupolis, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The town had four churches: St.George, Panayia Episkepseos, St.John Theologos and St.Zosimos (the patron saint of the town). There were also a number of institutions such as the "Petrinios" library, the school for boys, the  "Dorotheion" school for girls, and the pilanthropic institution "Dimitra".sozopolis2

Most people were fishermen and winemakers. Wine-making was widely practiced in the surrounding areas. The winemakers celebrated their patron saint (St.Triphon) on February 1st.

Most people migrated to Greece in 1925. They initially moved to Thessaloniki where they were quarantined in order to be decontaminated. Then 231 families moved temporarily to the settlement of Topsin and later to small houses built in Gefira by the Migration Department. A few families moved to Chalkidiki 12 years later where they established the town of Nea Sozopolis.



StGeorge"Kato Gefira" is a small settlement near the sourthern part of Gefira. Kato Gefira is actually the old "Topsin" village which dates back to the 15th century. Until recently there used to be an old wooden inn here, built in the 19 century.

The church of St.George in Kato Gefira was built around 1854. It's worthwhile visiting the church to see the old wooden chancel screen, the carved wooden roof as well as a number of old icons. In 1986 Melina Mercouri included the church in the lists of preserved monuments, when she was the Greek Minister of Culture.