Lakki to Drymonas
Less that 500m north from the shore, the land begins to rise: here, amongst gardens and orchards, can be found the older neoclassical houses that predate the Italian occupation. On the road that leads to Gourna Bay and the airport, after less than 1km and on a curve in the road opposite a splendid four-square balconied mansion, is the fine church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos to the right, reputedly built as the result of a visit to Leros by Hosios Christodoulos, the founder of the monastery of the same dedication on Patmos. The design of the church is unusual and striking even from outside, from where it is clear how the central domed space is flanked by two transverse vaulted units to west and east—the latter with an apse which is decorated on the exterior with patterned brick work. (There are similar patterns, high up on the south wall.) This is the original core of the church: it is clear where there has been the addition of later side aisles to north and south. The presence of Early Christian fragments, lying outside as well as incorporated into the construction of the cupola drum, indicates that there was probably a much earlier predecessor on this site. In the interior (currently under restoration and stripped of its plaster), it can be seen how the basic 11th century church was modified by the Knights of Rhodes in the 14th century, to accommodate a Latin liturgy and a different architectural taste, by the addition of the side aisles which help define a western-style nave. The Knights also put in groin-vaults and narrowed the longitudinal focus by introducing a pointed arch in a new wall which filled the space between the original 11th century piers (SW and NW) supporting the cupola. Patches of 13th century painting on the walls of the original structure survive in places—one, of notable artistic distinction, shows St Mary of Egypt receiving Communion. The church is a good example of how a Byzantine (Orthodox) structure was adapted for a different kind of cult, during the brief period of the rule of Western (Latin) overlords.
The fertile area around Aghios Ioannis Theologos, and up across the saddle towards Gourna, is marked by many fine and prosperous houses of the 19th century, with well cared-for gardens. Just before the road reaches the bay of Gourna, is the tiny church of the Panaghia Gourlamata, hidden from sight amongst olive trees in a fold in the hill. (The church is difficult to locate and is best reached from the opposite direction: i.e. climbing back out of Gourna Bay and Drymonas towards Lakki, c. 60m after the first sharp bend, a scarcely visible sign points right (west) to the church, through a gap between some houses.) The simple stone structure of the early 14th century, with the remains of a narthex or subsidiary structure to its west, still preserves some original wall-paintings—clearest of all being a compelling Dei«sis (Christ, his Mother and the Baptist) with a running inscription below, carrying the barely legible date, 1324. Below, at the shore of Gourna Bay, the road continues north past the ‘Caserma Regina’—another relict of Italian occupation, once military quarters, now holiday apartments—towards Kokali; the sharp left turn leads into Drymonas village. At the western extremity of the road along the waterfront is the tiny 14th century church of Aghios Giorgios (with traces of wall-paintings) built into the rocks by the water.
Leros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.