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21 August 2018

Open House Tour: The Houses of Columbidae

The dove is a favorite bird of ours here at Janet Mavec. The Peace Dove Necklace, the first I made, sold so well that it catapulted me into a career as a full-time jewelry designer (after a career as a vintage and estate jewelry seller). The dove, a symbol of peace, gave me the push I needed.

Columbidae Dove Necklace

The Home Fit for a Dove  

While they typically fly free and close to the ground, they are, like Homo sapiens, attracted to a nice looking house. People of earlier ages oftentimes built them fancy dwellings.

Dovecotes were the Medieval version of the chicken coops of today. Since these birds brought meat and guano (which was used to make gunpowder and fertilizer), having a dovecote meant you had achieved a certain status.

Many regions had their own style and often their own name for these buildings. The French referred to them as colombier or pigeonnier depending on which century we’re talking about.

The name of these houses brings me to an important oft-asked question: what’s the difference between a dove and a pigeon anyway?

In short, very little. They are both members of the Columbidae family. Ornithologically speaking, dove is the name typically bequeathed to smaller birds of this family, which has about 350 species in, literally, the (family) tree. The pigeons of New York City are rock doves, and the bird I used as model for my necklace is a mourning dove.

Now that that’s cleared up, it's time to go on an open house tour of the architecturally interesting houses of Columbidae

Close to Home with Christopher Spitzmiller

Not far from my farm is a very romantic looking dovecote that a friend of mine, Christopher Spitzmiller, recently built on his Hudson Valley property.   

The gorgeous dovecote is painted in a stately white and surrounded by a rose garden bursting with blooms. Christopher Spitzmiller, a talented ceramicist whose shapely lamps are a coveted item, has carried his impeccable sense of symmetry and style to the garden. What lucky doves!

Christopher Spitzmiller's Dovecote in New York

The others that follow show the dovecote traditions of other parts of the world. I like Christopher's in particular, because it shows that we Americans are finding our own sense of dovecote style.

Dovecotes of Europe

One of my all-time favorite gardens is 12 miles north of Oxford, England in the Cotswolds. Rousham is wildly gorgeous, a nearly unaltered swath of land since landscaper extraordinaire William Kent laid it down. The dovecote within the walled garden is made of stone dating from 1685:

Columbidae Dovecote in Rousham in Cornwall, England

England itself is said to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 26,000 dovecotes — I can’t possibly list them all, but below are a few that caught my eye.

The 16th-century stone-built dovecote and stable buildings near Willington church in Bedfordshire is nesting place for about 1,500 resident pigeons:

Columbidae England Dovecote

The slatestone and domed dovecote at Cotehele in Cornwall is an original, even though many of the other buildings didn’t survive from the 1300s. It has about 400 nest holes:

Columbidae Dovecotes in England Cotohele

Not far from Toulouse, France is the town of Cintegabelle. The dovecote of the old abbey of Boulbonne is a stone-built enviable abode. Stone built pigeonnier, pigeon loft or dovecote, in the Dordogne, France:

Columbidae Dovecotes and Pigeon Houses in France

On the Greek island of Tinos, the dovecotes are lovely embroidered castles. Don’t they almost look like quilts? See below:

Columbidae Greek Dovecotes

Dovecotes Further Afield

The dovecotes in Cappadocia, Turkey, are set within geological formations:

Columbidae Dovecotes and Pigeon Houses in Turkey

The Persian word for dovecotes, kabootar khaneh, means house of pigeons, of which there are close to 3,000 in Isfahan Province. One of the most intricate is in Yazd Province at Meybod (shown below). Not so shabby.

Columbidae Persian Dove House

Mud brick is used to construct the pigeon homes near the Nile in Egypt: 

Columbidae Pigeon House in Egypt

What dovecotes have you seen that I've forgotten? 

And, don't forget to check out our full collection of Peace Dove jewelry!

Photos from top to bottom: Dove in nest, Janet Mavec; courtesy RoushamU.K. National Trust; © Stephen Farhall via 123rf; © 123rf; courtesy Flickr/ Archway Andres; courtesy Flickr/ Rachid H.