AMORGOS, the easternmost island of the Greek Cyclades is a stunner,
with whitewashed houses, trestled alleyways and fiery rust sunsets ...
Kevin Raub in New York Post, 2010

Mysterious Embroided Stone Art in Asfondilitis

llias Provopoulos, journalist and writer

llias Provopoulos, journalist and writer

Amorgos, June 2011 – Text from a presentation held by llias Provopoulos at YPERIA 2011.

Asfondilitis, is an rural agriculture place on the island of Amorgos, that kept till now all these special characteristics that can help us to go back to the history, to understand many thinks of the agriculture and cattle-raising of the island and of course the way of living, of these people and how they used to be there.

The place of Asfondilitis is, in the middle of the Megali Strata, on the way from Aegiali to Chora – the island’s capital – and Hozoviotissa monastery and the characteristics is that all the houses are made of dry stone walls and the roofs of wood and earth.

The very important thing is that, besides this place, there are many wells, and that is something that make Asfondilitis very special in the whole island, because it was so difficult to have water.

water cisterns in asfondilitis

water cisterns in asfondilitis

The people living there the whole year, were very few, the most of them were going there just to work, only to plow and to sow in the beginning of the winter and to reap and to thresh in the beginning of the summer. The people that they lived there the whole year, were these that they were working only with the cattle-raising and they had many flocks of cows and sheeps. Some of them had also beehives and some others were fishing in the place named Agios Pavlos and Chalara.

The people in Asfondilitis were always the same, for many centuries and they began to change in the middle of the last century, as also in the whole island. Everything is changing after the end of the second world war, when people is go away from the island, trying to find a new and a better way ofl iving, work and money.

At that time, finishes the very interesting work that Michalis Roussos was doing, because of his death. He was a very strange man and the only thing that remind him, is the art that he left, on the big stones, on the walls of the houses and on some other places on the way to the other village named Potamos.

Stone pictures from Mihalis Roussos, musicians and instruments

Stone pictures from Michalis Roussos

All these pictures on the stones, that Roussos did and we can see of Asfondilitis are more than 200 and I believe that there were some others in different places around there, that they were covered from other stones or they are destroyed because of other reasons, since nobody was taking care of them.

This man, that we don’t have any photo of him, was the son of Nikita and Irini (fathers surename Halari) and he was born before the 1900. We don’t know how was when he was a child, but when he was growing up, he notices a kind of paralysis on the legs and after a while, he couldn’t walk anymore and he couldn’t do anything at all.

Nobody knows how it happened. Some people say that he got a cold when he was on the mountain taking care of his father’s sheeps, something that many people can not believe, because at that time they were very hard used. Some other people say, that he had a kind of sorcery that the nymphs did to him, but this is also very difficult to believe. Probably he had a neurological problem and because there were no hospitals and doctors to eure him, he lost the capacity to walk.

So, because of this problem, Michalis Roussos couldn’t move at all and he was asking to be helped from everybody. The old people remember, that the people moved him in some place and he was enjoying himself, doing some kind of embroidery on the stones, writing names and things that he was looking around him.

Nobody, knows what was the reason that pushed him to do this art. Nobody knows if he had a teacher or if he followed somebody else that he was doing the same. Probably, when he was still walking and moving to other places, he saw something similar somewhere else on the island and when he couldn’t move anymore he tried to copy them and to produce his own.

Stone pictures from Mihalis RoussosHis lovely picture, that it was also the best of all, were the the dances and the musician which he pictures all of them with long legs. This is the point that makes us think and understanding how serious and deep was the feeling of his incapacity to walk and to dance.

The musicians say for him – in Amorgos – that the man in the middle was tbe famous BOUJOUKLIS (Nikos Gavalas) which was going and playing in the religion festival of Agios Nikolas on Asfontdilitis and the others around him were the BOUJOUKLAKIA, that means that they were some other musicians that we don’t know who were and we can not say exactly.

Roussos, put a hat on the head of musicians, something very new and original on the island, because the people were use to have local cap and the people say that when George, an important musician came in Amorgos for the first time from America, bad this hat.

Most of the musician have in their hand violino and in some rock carvings we see to hold a woman from her hand who is carring something like jug or a container which was full of wine or water. The women are dressed in long dresses and in many rock carving they follow the musician.

Stone pictures from Mihalis Roussos, AsfondilitisThe religion festival are Roussos favorite theme and in plain incisions he is carving on the rock the will and another favorite theme is the women. These figures are carved in gread detail but he is not restricted to this only.

He is carving on the stones names like «Dafnoula», «Sofia» and some other that the women of Asfondilitis had. In that way probably he was expressing his depressed love to some ofthem, love that can ever have any response because of his disability.
We do not know these women were but we admire his courage to express in public his preference for them.

But what is dominant on the walls are the crosses sometime one sometime three together and that means to prevent the evil, fact that supports the view that Roussos was a victim of the nymphs. In his mind and conscience of the others, this was functioning in a similar way.

In some big stones that was to be above the entrances of the houses, Roussos carved on them while they were down on the earth, the initial of the householders, which they put them so high, to declare the ownership of the ruins.

Roussos carved some words of local products like milk, honey, wine, which probably indicate the use of the storage that this man had an elementary knowledge of writing, but his hands could not keep the pen to write, but only the peg to carve and embroid his quick passage from life.

Michalis Roussos is dead the period of the second world war and he was buried in the village Potamos. Later on, some other people tried to continue his art but very soon they understood that it was very difficult to do this, because the carving on the stone has to be done with a very big patience and only a person like him, without legs, who couldn’t go away from Asfondilitis, who couldn’t enjoy and do anything else, could have this patience.

P.S.: This is a small prescription of the book by the writer Ilias Provopoulos EMBROIDERY ON THE STONE IS THE LIFE which is going on circulation in June from edition «Mikres Patrides».

lias Provopoulos

Asfondilitis is on the hiking trail from the Monastery of Hozoviotissa to Potamos/Aegaili, Asfondilitis can also be accessed by a road and is the starting point to hike to Chalara Beach.
On the first Sunday after Easter the traditional “Procession of the Icons” pilgrimage takes place between Potamos and Hosoviotissa Monastery. On the way the procession also stops in Asfondilitis.
In Asfondilitis you also can find a geocache.

Video of the Icons Trek

Geographic Location

Comment with Facebook