2017-12-27 / Front Page

On the Road in Greece: the Kimisis Church and Bell Tower of Palaiopyrgos, Greece

By Catherine Tsounis

      Christmas means Snow in the bell tower, Snow in the Bell Tower woke up the village…And everyone goes to church to worship Christ - Hionia Sto Kapanario (Snow in the Bell Tower), Greek Christmas Carol

The Kimisis tis Theotokou Church, Palaiopyrgos, Arcadia, Greece.
The Kimisis tis Theotokou Church, Palaiopyrgos, Arcadia, Greece. The Holiday season is a time to remember where we came from. We embarked on a day trip to Palaiopyrgos (Bodia), Arcadia, Greece. We visited the historic church of Kimisis Tis Theotokou (Dormition) Church with its Bell Tower. With retired philologist Pitsa Gerou Macarounis and her husband Christo Macarounis, we experienced a spiritual visit to the souls of an Arcadian village.

“We are visiting the church built by our parents, grandparents and great grandparents,” said Icon, Kimisis tis Theotokou Church, Palaiopyrgos, Arcadia.
Icon, Kimisis tis Theotokou Church, Palaiopyrgos, Arcadia. Pitsa. “They were poor farmers and shepherds who built a Byzantine house of worship with elaborate chandeliers and iconography. A church was created to be a place better than their humble homes. A beautiful escape from their hard life to the world of God.”

Dr. John Siolas and retired Telephone Company administrator Christos Macarounis visited the Kapanario (Bell Tower) of the Kimisis tis Theotokou Church.
Dr. John Siolas and retired Telephone Company administrator Christos Macarounis visited the Kapanario (Bell Tower) of the Kimisis tis Theotokou Church. Dr. John Siolas and retired Telephone Company administrator Christos Macarounis visited the Kapanario (Bell Tower) of the Kimisis tis Theotokou Church. Dr. Siolas’ grandmother’s brother, Peter Sianis and his cousin William Sianis of the Chicago “Billy Goat Curse”2, sent funds to build the Kapanario and the elementary school.

John Chronis, a Kimisis Church Board member, who lives next to the church, opened it. “I am from the village of Kakouri, he said. I live in Palaiopyrgos now. I will open the church, so you can revisit your Byzantine roots.” God, church and patriotism is strong in the Peloponnese who were the first to rebel in the Revolution of 1821, against four centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule and slavery. Modern villas now surround the church, built by villagers from overseas. They dream of returning home to live.

The church interior has a unique hand carved altar with intricate designs. Icons of St. A painting of the Christ Pantocrator is in the interior, Iviron Monastery, Mount Athos.A painting of the Christ Pantocrator is in the interior, Iviron Monastery, Mount Athos.Constantine and St. Helen, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire and his Mother, the Panagia and Child, St. Barbara and other major saints decorate the interior and ceiling. Mr. Chronis pointed out a painted ancient icon of Jesus Christ with the following inscription: Rev. Timoleon Papaspiridis from Chavari, province of Ilias, donated to the village of Bodia of the province of Orchomenos, on Friday, 25th of September 1898, a work of the monk Victor.”

Evangelos Filis, President Palaiopyrgos Association/Editor of “Ta Nea Tou Palaiopyrgos” newspaper writes “the Kimisis tis Theotokou Church is in the center of the village. The modern church is different than the original. It was a smaller church with a cemetery surrounding it. The Greeks overseas contributed the funding to create the present Byzantine church. A painting of the Christ Pantocrator is in the interior. It is the iconographic work of the monk Markianou of Iviron Monastery. Iviron or Iveron is an Eastern Orthodox monastery in the monastic state of Mount Athos in northern Greece. The altar is carved from walnut wood. This is rarely seen today.”3 For further information, email ev.filis@gmail.com

“Palaiopyrgos is a village in the municipal unit Levidi, Arcadia in Greece. Its mediaeval name was Bodia or Bodea. It is best known as the source of the syrtos botiakos, a popular variety of the syrtos dance. The village's mediaeval name Bodia is thought to be derived from the Slavic word boda, meaning "winter quarters" (usually for sheep). The Peloponnese was invaded by Slavic nomads who ruled some areas from the seventh to ninth centuries CE; even after the restoration of Byzantine rule, some of these tribes retained their Slavic identity into Byzantine times). Even today, the neighborhood of Palaiopyrgos contains Slavic toponyms.

The first written reference to the village appears in a Venetian chronicle dated 1704… An earlier reference in a Frankish chronicle dated 1205 refers to a "Pyrgos, on Mount Trachy," which may be Palaiopyrgos. The village, protected by its eponymous tower and local militia, fell to the Turks in 1715, during the last Turkish-Venetian War. The first reference to the village in the Greek language is a document concerning the governor of the area, Rigas Palamides, and his rights vis-à-vis Bodia. The names of numerous villagers are recorded as having fought, many with distinction, in the Greek War of Independence, the Balkan Wars, World War II and the Greek Civil War.”4

“The blessing we received today was like a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” said Pitsa Gerou Macarounis. “This is the Land of our Roots. Our land is our ‘Holy Land’. We have an emotional tie. Every place has an ancient history. The time today has changed for the better. New houses are seen throughout the countryside. We must keep alive the self-sacrifice of our ancestors who built the Kimisis Tis Theotokou Church with beautiful carvings and iconography.”
 

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