Articles › Melodies In the Courtyard of St John


In the courtyard of St John...

by Irini Gazi

Source: EGEO Exotiko

They stand apart, the churches’ belfries that loom through the entrancing sight of the exquisitely beautiful settlement of Symi. Impressive belfries that light up at night and emphasise their important diachronic role in communicating and spreading the news in the local community. In Yialos, on the side of the Kali Strata, from a distance behind the coastal road, only the crest protrudes from the belfry of St John the Baptist, the island’s Minster.

When one passes through the narrow lane that leads to the oblong Basilica with its gothic groined vaults – the second largest church in Symi after the Holy Trinity (Hagia Triada) in Chorio – one can not but admire the large pebbled courtyard that surrounds the ornate belfry with the carved date in its wrought iron gate: 1880, evidently the year of its construction. On the gate of the temple we read again, that it was reconstructed in 1838 and renovated in 1869.

For the last fifteen years however, the show has been stolen by the oblong courtyard of St John that leads to the entrance of the belfry. We always associate the hot summer nights with this courtyard, because of some other John (Yiannis in Greek)…

Yiannis E. Diakogiannis, who left this world far too soon last December, the fighter journalist of Symiot descent, the inspirer and father of the Symi Festival, during which a wealth of events take place each summer, many of them in this courtyard.

The artists that have branded with their art this corner of Symi are innumerable and it would truly serve as an injustice to name only a few. Piano recitals, chamber music, symphony orchestras, Byzantine choirs, theatrical performances, accomplished but also gifted new composers, singers and musicians have performed here, and have all been left enchanted by the devout atmosphere.

Right in front of the tower of the belfry with the built-in relics from an ancient temple, next to the tall caique mast that stands there as part of the old Symiots’ custom, that of placing a mast in the churches’ courtyards, in front of the oleanders and the cypress trees, in the Symi festival this summer, we will hear sweet melodies again. The Symi Festival, which this year is dedicated to the honour of its creator. We will bid him farewell in this space over which he particularly prided himself, with what he loved the most; music. We will always be traveling with him however, to the worlds of the spirit, of art, and of culture.

Text © EGEO Exotiko

Photos ©


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- An Ethnography of Tourism on Symi 30/01/2008
- Book Review: "Symi 85600" by James Collins 20/01/2008
- Melodies In the Courtyard of St John 05/08/2007
- The Ox-Eye Window 18/07/2007

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