ONE @ 50: Easter in Olimbos

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. With Easter approaching for Christians who follow the Julian calendar, on 5 May, read about the Easter traditions in the Greek village of Olimbos, originally published in Spring 1984.

Read an excerpt from “Easter in Olimbos: A Living Museum” below, then read the full story.

The mourning wails have been piercing the silent chill air of Olimbos every Good Friday since the days of Byzantium. Five hundred and thirty years after Constantinople fell to the Turks and the Byzantine era ended, Easter is celebrated the same way today as it has been for centuries. Olimbos is a tiny village on the northern end of the Greek island of Karpathos, which is midway between Crete and Rhodes.

One of the most isolated villages in Greece, there is only one telephone in Olimbos for the 600 residents and one road connecting Olimbos to the 11 other villages on Karpathos. The farmers cultivate barley and wheat on the multi-terraced slopes with the same tools used in Byzantine times. First built on the coastline, Olimbos was the site of pirate plunderings. In the ninth century the villagers moved to safety in a remote mountain range which separates and protects the inhabitants from the sea. Farming is the main occupation of the men; women weave and embroider clothing.

The villagers’ commemoration of Easter is not their only preservation of the bygone Byzantine days of glory. The dialect in Olimbos is so old that many of the words date back to the era of Homer. The musical instruments they use: the three-stringed lyre, lute and the goatskin bagpipe accompany mandinades – spontaneous joyous or sad poems. When the subject of a mandinades involves emigrants who have left Olimbos for better economic opportunities abroad the villagers become emotional, often moved to tears.

Read more.

Joseph Viesti has traveled around the world in search of photographing festivals.

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