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The well-kept and pleasant chora of Lipsi is clustered around a small hill at the back of a wide sweep of harbour comprising two roughly equal bays. The best eating and much of the life of the town take place on the airy promenade of the port; while behind it, up a flight of steps, are the narrow streets of the old centre of the village which tend always to lead back towards one of the two tiny protected squares in the area behind the island’s principal church. The latter dominates the horizon with its unusually broad form, accentuated by two symmetrical bell-towers. This is the church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos, begun in 1931 and built with funds contributed by emigre Lipsiot families in America and Australia. The lavish quantity of liturgical objects and furniture which can be glimpsed behind the iconostasis gives some idea of the generosity of the church’s endowment; the interior has particularly fine hanging chandeliers. To the right on entering is kept the miraculous icon of the Panaghia tou Charou—an image comparable to the Pieta in western painting tradition, in which the Virgin holds and laments the dead Christ. Inside the glass frame of the icon can be observed some withered lily stalks.
This is the principal relic of the island—a miraculous icon, with an unusual iconography. A lily stalk, dedicated and left at the icon by a grateful suppliant in thanks for a petition granted, was found to revive miraculously from its subsequently desiccated state, and to flower nine days after the Feast of the Assumption on what has now become on Lipsi the Feast of the Panaghia tou Charou (23/24 August). It is said that the miracle repeats each year on the feast, and forms the focus of the island’s principal religious celebrations and festivities, involving a procession of the icon across the island.
Behind the church to the northeast is the Plateia Xanthos, with a bust of Immanuel Xanthos, the Patmian liberation fighter; the intimate space is animated by a couple of shaded cafes. On the north side of the square is the curious Nikephoreion Ecclesiastical Museum (open weekdays in the summer, mostly between 9.30–1, 4–8; 10–2 at weekends. If closed at these times, ask in the town hall (Demarcheion) opposite). Though chaotically displayed in one small room, this tiny museum should not be underestimated or missed if possible.
The collection is an interesting and mixed wunderkamer of artefacts—of which the beautifully carved marble *Ionic corner acroterion of an altar, produced by a 5th century bc Milesian workshop, is perhaps the prize. (A partner, which comes from the same altar-structure, is exhibited in the monastery’s museum on Patmos.) It possesses a timeless formal design, embellished with simple decorative palmettes, and is carved with particularly refined craftsmanship which has the slight imperfection and humanity of true handwork. Amongst the other antiquities on show are: Hellenistic grave objects and stelai, amphorae, coins (ancient and modern); a large piece from a Byzantine carved templon; and dedications found on the island’s acropolis, including an important 2nd century bc inscription relating to the territory of the island, stating that the decree should be ‘set up in the sanctuary of Apollo Lepsios’. There are relics, stones, dusts and rocks collected or sent from many places: the Holy Land, Asia Minor, Russia, Australia, even the Berlin Wall. Amongst the treasures on paper are two letters (of August 1824) from Admiral Miaoulis, the hero of the Greek War of Independence, and an especially beautiful, 19th century *hand-illustrated book of botany by Dionysios Pyrros. The other natural colours that stay in the memory long after leaving the museum are those of the embroidered *island costumes—reds, mauves and pale pastel greens.
Little remains of the older architectural fabric of Chora, except a few isolated buildings, and one substantial mansion just behind the post office, facing east. The town has spread into the areas beyond the original centre in an open patchwork of houses and gardens, dotted with blue domed churches and a quite unexpected Hindu lotus stupa (on the hillside to the east of the town)—evidence of the cultural diversity among the Greeks who have chosen to settle here. Not just the town, but the whole land scape of Lipsi seems punctuated by tiny steeply-domed hapels in white and blue. These are mostly modern and tend to have templon screens in painted and plastered masonry: taken singly, they are not particularly noteworthy, but they are so numerous and characteristic in form that together they constitute a unique and determining element of the island’s appearance.
Lipsi Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.