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Easter in Chios and rocket war in Vrontados

A bit of history
Easter in Chios means rocket war, a custom which originates from the old Ottoman era and is a "war" between the two parishes of Vrontados, the parish of St. Markos and the parish of Our Lady of Erithiani.

From what they say, it was started by the children of the two parishes who were playing stone- throwing-war with slingshots. Then, the older began to be involved, leading to the replacement of slingshots by small cannons.
In the beginning, the evening of the Resurrection, with cannons that sailors brought from decommissioned ships, they were firing their cannons from the courtyard of a church to the other, to celebrate the Resurrection and with the loud sound they were trying to break the windows of the "opponent "church, using only gunpowder. This was continued for several years and at the Resurrection of 1889, for unspecified reasons, the "war" started getting rampant with "opponents" to break down the pebbled courtyards of churches to fill their cannons with pebbles and thus there was a serious risk of accidents. After the intervention by the Turks, because they were afraid of cannon use as an uprising of the people, the cannons were seized and taken to the castle.

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After this incident, the parishioners of the two churches began to think of a new way to continue the "war" with something impressive but not prohibited by the Turks. The solution was given by the parishioners of St. Markos and Korakakis deminer who had his workshop in the city.
He made some rockets which brought in Vrontados. At the same time, they let their secret leaked and to parishioners of Our Lady of Erithiani so to continue the "war".
In this way began the new era of the rocket war. At first, they took their rockets from Korakakis but around 1900 they learned to make their own. In the beginning, the throwing of the rockets was done from the rooftops of the churches, but after some unfortunate events, the casting continued from the fields around the churches as it is done today.

The target for Panagousians (the parishioners of Panagia Erithiani) is the dome (“koumpes”) and the little Lion of St. Markos (it is the emblem of St. Markos in the hagiography above the main gate of the temple) and the aim of Agiomarkousians (parishioners of St. Markos) is the clock of Panagia Erithiani church.

With the exception of the years of German occupation for economic reasons and the early years of the dictatorship because of the prohibition, the custom continues until our days, attracting many visitors because of its uniqueness and its spectacular show.

The chronicle of Rocket War

The eternal "Rivals"

St. Markos
The church of St. Markos was built in the 16th century, but without be known the exact place. At first, it had an aisle and around 1783 the second aisle was built. During the great massacre of Chios in 1822, it was ignited by the Turks and rebuilt in 1845.

During the destructive earthquake of Chios in 1881, the temple was completely destroyed.
In 1885, the people started church’s rebuild, which after its completion in 1889 it had three aisles. In 1949, the dome suffered severe damage and was rebuilt again.
Until the ‘50s, there was a wooden iconostasis which was replaced by a marbled that is until today.

Panagia Erithiani
Our Lady, Erithiani, got her name from the area where Vrontados is located, which was called Erythe. It is one of the oldest temples of Chios before the earthquake, without knowing exactly when the first temple was built.

When the Genoese conquered Chios, they appropriated many of the churches of the island, among these and that of Our Lady Erithiani, but in 1660, after the efforts of Bishop Ignatius Neochori, it was achieved to surrender to Chians the Orthodox churches that were occupied by the Franks.

Our Lady Erithiani had become for a time a monastery, before 1821, where housed the sick and homeless of the area. In the great massacre of Chios, in 1822, the temple was burned and several of those who escaped fled to Syros, Peloponnese and elsewhere, who began to return after 1830.

After their returning, the parishioners began the construction of the church that was completed in 1840. The style of the temple is a blend of Gothic Basilica with pebbled courtyard, which was completed in 1892. The characteristic architectural element of pebbled yards is found in Vrontados and in Kampos of Chios
  • The preparation
    The whole process begins from the middle of summer with the formation of the groups that will work on the construction of the rockets. Each group uses its own name, like Icarus, Daedalus, Ahepa, Cobra, etc. and consists of three to five people, mostly young.

  • Holy Saturday
    After the necessary preparations throughout the period, when Holy Saturday comes, the teams are alert to the last preparations. A walk in the area is enough to feel what the rocketwar is for Vrontadians.
    The bases have set up and they launch the rockets to try the accuracy of the target. At the same time, we have the banter between the teams with enough humor and challenges.
    Formerly, in the parish of St. Markos, in the afternoon of Holy Saturday, a parade by the rocket-men of St. Markos was taking place with the rockets on the shoulder, in all the neighborhoods of the parish. Ahead was the chief on horseback holding the Greek flag. There was a festive atmosphere, something like a victory lap.
    This piece of custom is revived since 2002. But now, the rocket-men of both parishes take part to it, starting the evening of Holy Saturday from the town hall, exchanging teasing, and then they reach their parishes and take a battle position for what will follow.

  • Easter
    With the warning whistle of a horn the "hostilities" begin in the late night with increasing intensity. When the bell for Mass of the Resurrection sounds, the "hostilities" stop so the people to be able to go to churches.
    Upon hearing "Christ is risen", we have the climax of the "battle". Hundreds of rockets are fired by rival sides, offering a unique spectacle, imaginative and impressive. The sky is filled with the bright traces of the rockets, making day the night. No shortage, of course, of the voices and the celebrations for any successes to complete the full whole scene.

  • Easter Sunday
    With the coming of Easter Sunday, the rocket-men control their losses by checking the opponent parish. The meeting of teams provides intense banter about who the winner is, but there is no sure answer and it does not really matter, since in this "war" there are no losers.
    Then, the "reconciliation" of the opponents follows, giving hands, and they make a new appointment for the next year, triumphing of love and friendship.

The following adage is typical of the atmosphere that prevails:

Even if we fought
wickedness will not remain
the other day of Easter
we made peace

For your stay in Chios, you can book a room in one of the hotels and Bed & Breakfast inns.
In the town of Chios, as well as in many other areas of the island, there are hotels and accommodations of various categories and types (rooms to let, residences, Bed & Breakfast inns, studios, hostels, guesthouses and furnished apartments) that can satisfy every visitor's demands and needs for a pleasant and enjoyable stay.
You will find wonderful hotels, rooms and apartments to let of all categories and price ranges.

There are high speed and conventional ship routes to Piraeus while the trip is ranging from 4.5 to 9 hours respectively.
Chios is connected to the neighboring islands of Mytilini (daily) and Limnos while there are daily routes for destination to Inousses and three times a week to Psara.
There is alsoa connection to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis and Kavala through all year round.
During the summer season there are connections to other islands, too.

There are daily flights to and from Turkey, in particular the port of Cesme, which is one hour drive from Izmir.

Daily flights connect the island to Athens. Also, some days of the week there are routes from and to Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Limnos and Lesvos.
During the summer season, there are many charter flights and international airlines connecting the island to other European cities.

For your convenience, you can use the route map on the field “Routes” with information about the mileage, the time you need and the route you will follow, selecting the points of interest.


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