Springe zum Inhalt

Piperi – the cultural heritage

Try to imagine a scenario hardly feasible, as frustrating as the task of designing a national park status regulation for islands never visited, never seen even from some distance or never assessed by other people to rely upon. The result got to be totally inadequate, rather counterproductive, useless throughout - lacking any reflection of all the wonderful natural and cultural heritage out there.

For implementing our conservation proposals (cf. the relevant articles) this task was delegated to some public servants carrying out their day to day office obligations, without much if any personal motivation, no imagination and no knowledge about the location concerned... to people being confined to a drab concrete block, traffic - swept, noisy  environment that has nothing in common with the region whose values they are supposed to preserve. It means indeed a task impossible and the results are in full accordance.

At Piperi, none of the former traditions has survived such lethal attack. And the historical monuments are falling apart. What else can you expect. So decay of the island's cultural assets began to accelerate with the declaration of the conservation status, because no one is allowed now to visit Piperi (including myself who has first done research there and promoted this "natural juwel"). No official body bothers about preservation of cultural heritage in this core zone of the Marine "National"park. The magnificent church of the former monastery, Theotókou Pigí was maintained until recently by the Lemonis family, but the ancient smaller church is in a derelict condition. The simple houses nearby have collapsed. No more rezin collection, no clearing of the forest floor (high danger of fires!), no more endemic cattle, the formerly 500 goats increasing in numbers, getting feral and destroying the broadleaf vegetation cover. No more traditional fishing at any time of the year. What is a declared national monument worth having if there is no access, no published documentation, not anything to mention in this regard - besides the law and besides a management body who only observes this law but is ignorant of what exists and what in fact is happening on remote Piperi day in day out. Quite clearly this management body is incapable of handling what is its official duty.

So Piperi remains the Last Unknown in the Aegean - and is the declared core zone of the now existing Marine National Park at the same time. A paradox constellation! No thorough archaeological nor historical reserach has been carried out so far. Even the old name of the island is not preserved.  Was the monastery a dependency of Mt. Athos? Like the monastery on Kyra Panagia? Thomas Lemonis recorded some old stories: The last monks were slain by pirates, their skulls kept in the ancient church. Only one monk survived. From another source I learnt: The last remaining monk was supplied with provisions over the years by one of the Lemonis forefathers. But one day the bill was tabled. As the monk had no money, he had to give the island in exchange - not a bad swop that was! But how may the owners make good use of this huge island under the circumstances at present?

Way up the steep trail from the jetty to the monastery, a mighty pine tree bears witness of the last pirate: He was caught in his coastal hideout and hung from one of the tree's branches... Still that branch is there. So watch out MOm: When you stopped our boat in neutral waters outside the park's boundaries in 1994 to prohibit our entry, it was a clear act of piracy (cf. the article: Seals and fishermen united in one boat and my press release at the time - see bibliography)... Have you ever ventured from your off limits hideout at the Piperi coast past that pine tree up to the sacred place of the monastery? It's just a though: You might lit a candle in the deserted church high above the glittering waves - for continuing  prosperity. Oh yes, I do know, pirates are not hung anymore, they are now in full business.

Piperi - the Last Unknown! Still vailed in mysteries... what happened with all the manuscrips and wood cuttings which were kept in the church, they all have vanished. On Piperi not a single one has survived. And the valuable icons?

Only in 2007 the professor of architecture and architectural history, Dr. Alexis D. Alexiou, of Thessaloniki has published his most valuable documentation of post - byzantine architecture on Alonnisos and the islands of the conservation area, including Piperi (in Greek). The photographs show the more recent derelict condition of the ancient smaller church, as compared with the earlier pictures presented here.

When finally will there commence some professional action to safeguard these almost forgotten treasures of monastic history on islands of the Marine Park: on Piperi, Kyra Panagia, Skantzoura, Gioura and Pappou (cf. the separate articles)!

Veröffentlicht am Kategorien European Dilemma - Greek Tragedy, Northern Sporades, The Monk Seal AllianceSchlagwörter , , , ,

Über Thomas Schultze-Westrum

Dr. Thomas Georg Hans SCHULTZE-WESTRUM Author of Scientific and Popular Publications Producer and Director of Documentary Films and Videos Adviser in Nature Conservation and Preservation of Rural Cultures Initiator of Conservation Programmes German national. Born 1937 (Berlin). Classical education at the Benedictine monastery of Ettal in Upper Bavaria. Graduate of Munich University, with degrees in Zoology, Geology and Cultural Anthropology (Ethnology). Scholarship by “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”. Research (University of Munich, other scientific institutions) and publications on social and population physiology of marsupials and other vertebrate fauna of New Guinea and the Mediterranean Region, cultural anthropology, conservation and resource management on the village level, mainly in Greece and New Guinea. Author of the books “New Guinea” (Berne 1972) and “Biologie des Friedens” (Biology of Peace), Munich 1974. Dr. Schultze-Westrum has joined for several years the Commissions on Ecology and Environmental Planning of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He is the founder of the working group (IUCN Commission on Ecology) “Conservation and Traditional Life Styles” 1979; the “ECOCULTURE” Movement 1981; the “Gesellschaft für die Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Haustierrassen” GEH (Society for the Preservation of Old and Endangered Breeds of Domestic Animals) 1981; and the non-profit-making society “KALLIERGIA”, for traditional agriculture and village conservation in Greece, 1993. As a consultant he has worked for the EU, IUCN, OECD and WWF. As a film maker he has produced, directed and mostly also shot, for German television and international TV networks, 75 documentaries, mainly ecological portraits with emphasis upon the integration of local and traditionally living people into conservation projects. His first film (1974) was about alternative (sustainable) utilization of tropical rainforests in New Guinea, for ZDF. Never Dr. Schultze-Westrum has entered any of his films into an award winning competition, because he is more concerned about the effects of his TV work in actual conservation and public awareness. One of these real awards was the creation of the Marine National Park Alonnisos Northern Sporades in Greece as a result of his film “The Coast of the Monk Seals” in 1976/77 for ZDF (ratings 36 % - shown in 11 countries). His programme “Green Desert”, about traditional water management in the Sultanate of Oman was distributed by the Television Trust for the Environment TVE to 44, mainly Third World, countries. Another leading aspect of his film work was the production of environmental films for the people of the country where he was filming. So, he produced the first TV series of films on ecology, rural life styles and conservation for Greece (in the early 80’s, 14 programmes) and for the Sultanate of Oman (late 80’s, 12 films). His deep interest in ancient human traditions inspired him to produce “Omani Seafaring”, for Oman TV; “Im Kielwasser Sindbads” (In the Wake of Sindbad), for the series Terra X of ZDF; and “Insel der Magier” (Island of the Sorcerers: Waigeo) for ARTE TV. After retiring from TV film production at the end of 2002 he is returning to his earlier scientific work (abandoned in the early 70’s) about the social and population physiology of marsupials ( Petaurus breviceps papuanus and closely related species); village based conservation; the evolution of human communal behaviour and cultural diversity; and the evolution of art styles in the Papuan Gulf province of New Guinea. Since 1992 he is also involved in eco- and agrotourism programmes that are based on his earlier promotion of this alternative “soft” tourism through publications and films, in Greece and West Papua. His conservation activities are continuously focussed on Greece and New Guinea, since 1957 and 1959, respectively. Dr. Schultze-Westrum now is writing up his experiences of many years field work and he is keeping communications alive through his homepage, from the ancient village of Kazaviti on the island of Thassos in the northern Aegean Sea. The conservation and re-activation of outstanding traditional values of Kazaviti stand at the centre of a local museum and documentation centre to be set up in one or even two old Macedonian stone houses.