Grand Opening of St. Nicholas-Papoutsy Park and
Amphitheater in Lesvos

[Greek version]

(HCS)--Rye Beach, NH--The culmination of nearly ten years of efforts to revitalize a small mountainside village in Lesvos, the opening of the St. Nicholas-Christos and Mary Papoutsy Park and Amphitheater in August 2008 marked a significant point in the recent history of Vatoussa. For three days dignitaries, guests and villagers celebrated the inauguration of the park. Hundreds filled the park and surrounded its tiny chapel to hearVesper services and attend the blessing of the grounds by His Eminenece Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mithymna.

Following the ecclesiastical events, dignitaries formally welcomed the community to the park in the spectacular outdoor amphitheater. Capacity crowds listened attentively as a former provincial governor and minister congratulated the village. The municipal mayor, Mr. Sotiris Kardaras, added his welcoming and congratulatory remarks, as did the president of the sponsoring foundation, Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, and the endowers of the park project. President Stavrakoglou spoke eloquently about the location of the park itself, the beauty, spirit and history of the locale. [Click here for English versions of his address.] Very Reverend Makarios Niakaros of Haverhill, Masachusetts, also addressed the crowd; a number of his American parishioners have ancestral roots on the island. Nationally renown publisher of (de)kata Literary Magazine and poet, Dino Siotis, likewise honored Vatoussans with his dramatic reading of a poem dedicated to the park's opening. He was a recipient last year of the prestigious Greek National Prize for Poetry and has helped to establish the International Athens Prize for Literature.

Christos and Mary Papoutsy Park in Vatoussa, Lesvos.

Christos and Mary Papoutsy presented awards of appreciation to Christos Stavrakoglou, Avel Spanellis, Panagiotis Malamellis, and Irini Kalontzis for their decade of steadfast service to the Papoutsy foundation and to the development of the public park. Mytilenian choral voices led by Lia Kefala concluded Saturday's program with a stirring concert of traditional Greek songs.

The second day of festivities began late in the afternoon with a revival of the old popular Vatoussan festival called "Fton." Professor Yiannis Katernellis was instrumental in organizing the contests, consisting of donkey and horse races, foot races, and stone-throwing competitions. Local police cordoned off the main road from the village to the park, a distance of about 1,000 meters, for the races, with rescue personnel on hand to offer first-aid if needed. Villagers cheered all contestants, amid much merriment. To the delight of local children, a colt running alongside its mother, shot ahead during the horse races to take first place in one heat. Organizers separated participants in the foot races according to age and gender, with a large and fleet-footed contingent of young girls competing. Entrants in the stone-throwing competition used a prescribed format for hurling a round stone of about 5 pounds, much like modern shot-put technique. At the conclusion of the contests, a selection of dignitaries presented the top three winners in each category with certificates, and Mr. Vangelis Gdondelis, a scholar and historian, lectured on the history of this local festival and its counterparts throughout Lesvos. [Click here for Greek version of lecture.]

On the final day of the inauguration, the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa and Omospondia Lesviakon Syllogon Athinon (OLSA, the Council of Lesviot Organizations in Athens) co-sponsored a forum for members of the council in the meeting hall of Vatoussa's Metamorphosis organization. Representatives from the organizations came from as far away as Thessalonika and Athens to participate. Speakers and attendees discussed and raised a number of important issues affecting long-term strategies and involvement in such organizations. Following the daylong discussions sponsors held a reception for the guests and participants.

Inaugural Program:

Saturday, August 2,2008, 6:30pm, St. Nicholas Park

  • Vespers and Artoklasia service at the chapel of St. Nicholas led by His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mithymna, Lesvos.
  • Blessing of the park and amphitheater
  • Welcome and remarks by Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, President of the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa
  • Remarks by Chris and Mary Papoutsy, Founders
  • Remarks by Prof. Nina Gatzoulis, Supreme President of the Pan Macedonian Association, Inc. of the U.S.A.
  • Remarks (poem) by Mr. Dino Siotis, poet and publisher of (de) kata Literary Review
  • Remarks by Mr. Sotiris Kardaras, Dimarchos, Dimos Antissis - Eressou, and other government officials
    from Mytilini and Athens
  • Performance of traditional songs by DEPTA chorus of Mytilene with Lia Kefala conducting
  • Reception

Sunday, August 3, 2008, 7:00pm, St. Nicholas Park

  • Revival of the old popular festival "Fton" in the Papoutsy park
  • Address by Evangelos Gdontellis: "Popular Festivals of the Past in Lesvos. The 'Fton' of Vatoussa. "
  • Athletic contests organized by Professor Yiannis Katemellis.

Monday, August 4, 2008 9:30am, at the hall of Cultural Organization
"Metamorphosis" in Vatoussa .

  • Day program with the topic: "The present and future of Lesviot Organizations of Athens. Prospects and proposals for the continuation of productive functioning." Program , organized by the Omospondia Lesviakon Syllogon Athinon (OLSA) and the Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa 'Christos and Mary Papoutsy'. Speakers will be Mr. Yiannis Manoukas, Mr. Achilleas Chiotellis, Mr. Yiannis Chatzivasileiou, Ms. Panagiota Plomaritou, Mr. Manolis Papoutsis, a representative of the Foundation ''Nikos Papadimitriou," Mr. Christodoulos Tsakirellis.
  • Brief conducted tour of the center of the traditional settlement of Vatoussa.
  • Reception with speakers

Officers for the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa held discussions during the design phase of the park with local and national church officials over the proposed development of park lands and renovation of its chapel. The park project received approval from and full support of the local Greek Orthodox hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mithymna, and the Archdiocese of Greece headquartered at Athens.

Construction of the project began in 2003 and proceeded in stages. Its cost has been about USD$500,000, with some monies contributed by Vatoussans and descendants abroad. Mr. Panagiotis Malamellis, a noted local painter, held an art exhibition in Boston (The Greek Institute, June 2001) in support of the park during its design-phase.

George Sosonides, a leading Greek architect based in Kalloni, Lesvos, drew up plans for the entire project, including the erection of a three-hundred-foot-long, hand-crafted masonry retaining wall and front entry. For many months, villagers and stone masons scoured all quarries and razing sites for local stones suitable for the project. Local craftsmen toiled busily under the guidance of a master-builder, Mr. Vyron Michalakellis, to incorporate the specially selected materials into the construction. Because Vatoussa had been designated a traditional, historic village by the Greek government, construction of the park fell under strict regulations enacted to preserve the historic architecture and appearance of the village. Masons incorporated hand-hewn local stone into the creation of the park structures and amphitheater so that they would blend in with the style of the village. The Demos [Municipality] of Antissis-Eressou generously donated additional lighting along the approaching roadway to the park, while Mr. Nikos Economides installed outdoor lighting for the entire park, including specialized lighting for evening performances at the amphitheater. His expert design of overhead and walkway lights imparted a festive atmosphere to the complex, and enhanced patron safety.

2007 Photo of Construction

Master masons Kostas Imbrushi (far left), Menelas
Kupes (second from left), and Spyros Kupes (second
from right), pose with Christos Papoutsy (center) and
supervisor Vyron Mchalakellis (far right).

Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou (left) and Mr. Christos
Papoutsy (center) meet with then mayor of the
demos, Mr. Polydoros Abatzis

Members of the Foundation Board have worked tirelessly since the inception of the project to oversee its implementation and to transform this geographically beautiful site into one of the major attractions of the village. Working together with President Stavrkaglou have been Mr. Ioannis Manoukas, Mr. Evangelos Gdontellis, Mr. Avel Spanellis, Mr. Babis Kontoutsikos, Mrs. Irini Kallontzis, Mr. Dimitris Paptsas, Fr. Evangelos Ververis, Mrs. Ioanna Sfekas Karvelas, and Christos and Mary Papoutsy. Mr. Ioannis Mamatzis and Mr. Dimitris Konstantellis also fulfilled terms on the board, rotating out of the foundation with the completion of their service as officers of the organizations they represented. The mission of the foundation is to benefit the "public welfare and the preserve the history, physiognomy and tradition of the village of Vatoussa," as well as to enhance "its beautification" and to work to improve the "standard of living and quality of life of its residents." During its first years, the foundation undertook a wide range of significant and successful projects on behalf of the village: installation of heat at the local church, Koimisis tis Theotokou; installation of air-conditioning systems into the function hall of the Metamorphosis organization; organization and installation of a climatization system in a small ecclesiastical museum; initiation of annual winter outings for elderly residents; establishment of a program to assist needy residents; purchase of a piano for two local youth choral groups whose formal music lessons were also sponsored by the foundation; organization of village clean-up days; a civil engineering study of the village structures. But the completion of the St. Nicholas Park project is the most significant work of the foundation to date. For many decades, villagers strolled along the approach to the park during warm summer evenings, hoping to see improvements to the site. One villager summed up the feelings of all Vatoussans about this latest project: it is "the realization of a long-held dream for local residents."

About Vatoussa

Once the summer retreat of Byzantine royal families and their skilled artisans, the refreshing breezes of Vatoussa still beckon yearly visitors to the mountainous foothills of Lesvos. Built upward along a hillside, Vatoussa draws a loyal, repeat crowd to her pastel-stuccoed houses crowded along narrow, cobblestoned streets which wind sinuously upward to green forests and island walking trails. Visitors find Vatoussa a cultural gem, with her small local museum and art gallery, upper and lower squares, and traditional coffeehouses serving homemade dishes. Equally noteworthy are two churches, also built during the 1800s. Byzantine and post-Byzantine-style images adorn the interior of these three-aisled basilicas. The hand-carved wooden iconostaseis of the main church is of especially fine craftsmanship. Recently the village renovated several older homes in the best locations of the village and turned them into small pensions with modern facilities. The hillside village boasts a cobbler's shop, two barbershops, two bakeries, several traditional cafes and stores, restaurants, and small pensions—all still in operation. Vendors arrive daily to sell fresh produce and fish to the villagers or outlying hamlets of Pterounda, Revma, and Hidira.

Although a number of Vatoussans today are skilled tradespeople, there are many prominent scholars who were born and raised there. Among them are theologians, professors, archbishops, school directors, writers, and poets. Noted Vatoussa artists and musicians have also made their mark. Villagers remain justifiably proud of their heritage and their hometown and extend a hearty, traditional welcome to all who visit there.

About Lesvos

One of the largest islands of the Aegean, it lies near the coast of Asia Minor between Chios and Lemnos, with two deep bays that give it the appearance of a plane-tree leaf. First-time visitors to this island remark that their impression of it is of sheer beauty, as it emerges from the deep, blue Aegean.

Silvery beaches, blossoming valleys and forested heights combine with an abundance of radiant sunlight to make this fertile and ancient isle intoxicating. A vast range of vegetation, from the silvery olive tree and the dark green pine to the simple wildflowers adorn this Hellenic gem. Geological and ornithological treasures beckon. Lesvos is home to a petrified forest and hosts hundreds of rare and exotic bird species on major migratory routes. The island's natural beauty and extensive history have inspired famed poets over many centuries, from Alcaeus and Terpander of ancient eras, to Palamas, Eftaliotis and Nobel-prize winning Elytis.

Amphitheater and chapel

Vatoussa panorama by local artist Panagiotis Malamelis

Inauguration Photo Gallery

The Ladies Society of Vatoussa
"Metamorphosis" underwrote costs of
renovating park chapel.

Vespers and Artoklasia Service at park's
chapel. Pictured are (L to R) V. Rev.
Archimandrite Makarios J. Niakaros; V.
Rev. Nikodimus Koutzabasis, Proto-
syngelos of the Metropolis of Mithymna;
His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos
of Mithymna.

Greeting and congratulations from
the Dimarchos of Antissa-Eressos,
Mr. Sotiris Kardaras

Blessing of Park by (L to R) V. Rev
Archimandrite Makarios J. Niakaros,
parish priest from Holy Apostles Greek
 Orthodox Church in Haverhill, MA; V.
Rev. Nikodimus Koutzabasis,
Protosyngelos of the Metropolis of
Mithymna; His Eminence Metropolitan
Chrysostomos of Mithymna, Lesvos;
V. Rev. Fr. Nikodimos Pavlopoulos,
Abbott of Leimonos Monastery, Lesvos.

V. Rev. Fr. Makarios J. Niakaros (center)
participating in blessing of the park.
Among those participating in the
park inauguration were (L to R) V.
 Rev. Fr. Evangelos Ververis, V. Rev.
Fr. Nikodimos Pavlopoulos, V. Rev.
Fr. Makarios J. Niakaros, His
Eminence Metropolitan
Chrysostomos of Mithymna,
and Benefactors Christos & Mary
Papoutsy (Papoutsis).

Benefactors Christos and Mary Papoutsy
(Papoutsis) present Plaque of Appreciation
to scholar and historian Christos
Stavrakoglou (right), President of the
Christos and MaryPapoutsy Foundation
for the Revitalization of Vatoussa.

Avel Spanellis (right), President of the
Local Council of Vatoussa, receives a
Plaque of Appreciation from park
benefactors Christos and
Mary Papoutsy (Papoutsis).

Photo depicts Vatoussa artist and
author Panagiotis Malamelis receiving
Plaque of Appreciation from Christos
and Mary Papoutsy (Papoutsis)

Mr. Christos Starvakoglou, President of the
Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for
the Revitalization of Vatoussa, delivers
inaugural address at park.

Park benefactors Christos and Mary 
Papoutsy (Papoutsis) present Plaque
of Appreciation to Foundation Board
Member and President of the Ladies' 
Society "Metamorphosis,"
Irene Kalontzis (right).

Mr. Yiannis Manoukas, historian and
publisher of "Palmoi tis Vatoussas,"
a quarterly publication about the village,
addresses the guests and dignitaries
at the park inauguration.

Professor Nina Gatzoulis of the Modern
Greek Studies Program at the University
of New Hampshire and Supreme President
of the Pan-Macedonian Association of the
USA addresses crowd at park dedication.

Park Dedication (side view)

DEPTA Chorus of Mytilene with
Conductor Lia Kefala gave a
concert performance
at the park dedication.

Flowers presented to
Christos & Mary Papoutsy by
granddaughter Lucy.

Revival of the old local festival "Fton,
organized by Professor Yiannis
Katernellis, on the second day of
park inaugural activities.Pictured
are young winners of the foot races
receiving awards from Chairman
Vangelis Gdondellis

Riders and their horses prepare for
"Fton" festival race on the second
day of park festivities.

Scholar and historian Evangelos Gdondelis
lectures about the history of the Vatoussan
"Fton" festival and celebrations throughout
the island.

Mr. Manolis Papoutsis, Esquire, and
President of the Vatoussans Abroad
Organization, opens a forum held on the
third day of park inaugural activities,
"ThePresent and Future of Lesviot
Organizations of Athens," sponsored
by OLSA,Omospondia Lesviakon
Syllogon Athinon.

Day forum at hall of "Metamorphosis"
organization in Vatoussa in celebration
of the dedication of park. "The Present
and Future of Lesviot Organizations of
Athens. Prospects and Proposals for
Continuation of Productive Functioning"
was organized by Omospondia
Lesviakon Syllogon Athinon (OLSA)
and Christos & Mary Papoutsy
Foundation for the Revitilazation of
Vatoussa. Among the speakers were
Mr. Yiannis Manoukas, Mr. Achilleas
Chiotellis, Mr. Yiannis
Chatzivasileiou, Ms. Panagiota
Plomaritriou, Mr. Manolis Papoutsis,
Mr. Christodoulos Tsakirellis.
Following the lengthy forum, a
reception was held
for the speakers and

Presentation by Mr. Christodoulos
Tsakirellis, President of Omospondia
Lesviakon Syllogon Athinon (OLSA),
during park dedication activities.

Historic traditional village
of Vatoussa, Lesvos, Greece

(Posting date 24 September 2008; updated 06 October 2008)

Photos by Bill Gatzoulis and Mary Papoutsy. HCS encourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL

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