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Skantzoura – the elusive monastery

From the white marble sculptures of the Skantzoura coast some scant indication of a trail leads inland through juniper woodlands and olive groves - up the main ridge of the island's gentle hills. It had taken me decades to finally venture up there and explore what appears like a vision of several lucid buildings against the skyline.

One day in 1989, when wildlife photogapher Konrad Wothe patiently squeezed himself for hours into a canvas hide to get his superb shots of Eleonora's falcons, on Strongylò Island offshore, I made the ascent to the abandoned Monastery of Evangelistria, dedicated to the „Ευαγγελισμό της Θεοτόκου", as I learnt later.

Giannis Florous, my fisherman friend from Wotsi on Alonnisos had come along.

I was overwhelmed! An entire entity of monastic buildings, the church, a vaulted room with a well in the floor, several more stone-built utility/storage rooms and stables; behind the monastery wide terraces of former vineyards; a round - view over the entire island of Skantzoura, the nearer and distant islands of the Marine Park in the ultramarine blue Aegean Sea.

And I was amazed that all this magnificent place had remained un-noticed. I approached the abott of the Megisti Lavra on Agion Oros for the sake of restoring the entire complex, to re-cultivate the vineyards (with the ancient variety of grapes that almost totally was eradicated by the xerophylla epidemic on Alonnisos) and replant the fertile plain of Kampos – just to become aware that the monks only considered exploitation of the valuable Skantzoura marble... I had to abandon my dream of restoring and re-viving the ruined monastery, to tune into the magic of this ever inspiring place.

Dr. Alexis Alexiou, architectural historian, has provided a description and sketches of the monastery on Skantzoura in his book of 2007,  Alonnisos: The architecture of the post – byzantine monuments.

The author refers to the antique name of Skantzoura – Skándira.

But no mention is made of an archaic building near the coast that is the very first monastery on Skantoura, according to oral local (Alonnisos) tradition. Giannis showed us the vaults and remaining upright walls, Konrad took some wide angle pictures – that was 20 years ago; all this historic monument may have fallen apart since, before it was recognized as most significant cultural heritage of the National Park.

Veröffentlicht am Kategorien Goats, Highlights in an Explorer's Life, Northern SporadesSchlagwörter , ,

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.