“He was from Epirus, a village in Tzoumerca. It was called Vastavetsi at the time, now called Petrovouni (rocky mountain). His parents were shepherds and they were named Makrigianis. He was born in 1770 or 1773. He had three brothers, George, Costas and Chris, who was the youngest.
Because he was accused of stealing sheep that gave to the Klephts of his uncle, Diplas, he was put into the Ioannina prison; he was 17 at the time. In prison he met Ali-pasha’s confidential official, Veli-Geka, and the two of them became blood brothers. He made up his mind to become a Klepht. His mother tried to talk him out of it, his nickname Katsandonis came from his mother’s words ‘kats’+ Andoni’ meaning ‘stay Andoni’.
At the age of 25, he became a klepht near his uncle, Diplas, who had his own force. He could not stand the tyranny of the slaves. He became the terror of Ali-pasha’s army. They couldn’t get anywhere near him. They burned down his house; they captured his parents and tortured them to death. He was a restless chief of arms for ten years. He humiliated and did away with different groups of conquerors and tyrants such as Spahis, Turk-Albanian mountain officers in a number of places.
In 1804, he annihilated two of Giapoupaga’s gangs; about 180 dead and casualties, outside Ioannina. They were on their way back, winners from Souli, but he did them in. He freed lots of slaves on that occasion. He spared the life of one and only person, named Dumca, for he had two unmarried sisters and he gave him two gold florins to help him marry them.
He was remembered for his jump across Acheloos River. Chasing Turk-Albanians, he reached a gorge 200 m deep; 19 of them, out of fear jumped down. He himself jumped across –about 8 meters– and went on chasing the rest. Four of his men perished but Ali pasha lost 200.
In spring of 1807, Ali-pasha sent a numerous horde led by Muhandaris. After a two-day fight, he left with a raid and 11 of his men dead. Among them was his uncle, Diplas. A month later, Kapodistrias called him to rescue the island of Lefcada from Ali Pasha. He fought bravely together with Kolokotronis and they won. The presence of Russian troops was of help. It was then that they proposed he be in charge of a Russian battalion. He turned it down saying ‘Russia doesn’t need me while Agrafa Mountains do’.
He went down with smallpox so he set off Lefcada unwell. He stayed in a cave with his brother, George, and five more of his men at the Prodromos monastery to recover. This got known and a traitor led Muhandari and 700 Turk-Albanians to him where they got caught. They were taken to Ioannina and Ali pasha asked for his hidden treasures and money. It was then, under a plane-tree, that the executioners broke the bones of his arms and legs slowly with hammers. He didn’t make a sound.
Half dead, he was thrown in a dungeon; in pain and feverish, he kept saying: ‘poor money…’ till he died. His brother, George, and his comrades suffered the same death.
His body was sold and his buyers placed it in Kaloutsiani mosque so that the Christians could see it paying a small entrance fee. Finally, two lords from Ioannina, Stavros Tsiapalamos –Ali-pasha’s secretary– and Costas Marinos, took the body after paying a lot of money. They buried it in the courtyard of st Athanasios church which is the metropolitan church of Ioannina on present day.
All types of folk music have sung of his bravery, generosity of heart and sacrifice.
He remained unchanged till he died.
The previous three themes have a unique functional space. As we go past that of the Association of Friends, a corridor curb leads to others, a peculiar cave construction on our left and right: the entrance to the prisons. Here, I portray Katsandonis in an Agrafa cave, one of those I actually walked in and enabled me to get to know his hideouts.
He is resting and meditating the nation’s war of Independence. He is at the age of 34, thin, with a black moustache, an intense look and powerful soul. Many biographers as well as folk painters portray him that way.
I made sure elements of entrance and exit would be apparent in the cave. The imitation of these rocks –made from sackcloth, glue, gypsum and powder colors– and their pleatings differ substantially from those of the rest compositions. The purpose of the rocks here is not to cover a place but determine it with their size.
The intention of placing this free man right in front of the prison is to make a sharp contrast between these two themes. Although they belong to the same historical period, the facial expressions and the construction of the rooms itself come to complete contrast.
I worked the gun he is holding with great care. Besides, he is the only renowned chief Klepht and chief of arms I have. “