- Title: GREECE: LIFESTYLE: ROCKET WAR OF THE VRONDADOS.
- Date: 11th April 2004
- Summary: (W3) CHIOS, GREECE (APRIL 10, 2004) (REUTERS) (DAY SHOTS) 1. VIEW OF VRONDADOS TOWN ON CHIOS ISLAND 2. PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH 3. SAINT MARK CHURCH 4. PAN FROM ONE CHURCH TO THE OTHER 5. VARIOUS VIEWS OF ROCKET MAKERS CONSTRUCTING ROCKETS, POUNDING WITH BRONZE MALLETS IN OLD HOUSE 6. ADDING INGREDIENTS INTO ROCKET CASE 7. MAKERS BINDING ROCKET 8. ROCKETS BEING SET UP IN LOCATIONS FOR FIRING 9. LOCALS PUTTING UP BOARDS ON WINDOWS AND DOORS 10. HOUSE COVERED IN WIRE MESH 11. HOUSE RIGHT BELOW CHURCH BEING COMPLETELY COVERED WITH METAL WIRE MESH 12. VIEW OF WIRE MESH FROM INSIDE HOUSE 13. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) RESIDENT GEORGE KOULOURIS WHO IS UNHAPPY BECAUSE HIS HOME GETS HIT BY ROCKETS SAYING: "We live as hostages to this tradition. We can't breathe when it takes place, we have to be on standby in case a fire breaks out, because if you are not careful you can even lose your house." 14. VIEW OF ROCKETS LINED UP IN ROW FOR FIRING 15. CLOSE OF ROCKETS 16. RIVAL GROUP LIGHTS ROCKETS THAT ARE IN ROWS, HUGE SPARKS AND SMOKE AS THEY TAKE OFF 17. VIEW OF ONE ROCKET TAKING OFF TOWARDS CHURCH IN THE DISTANCE / ANOTHER ROCKET TAKES OFF 18. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) VASSILIS BARKOULIS, WHO HAS BEEN FIRING ROCKETS SINCE HE WAS A CHILD SAYING: "A good rocket has to fly fast, go far and stay lit until the end. You have to be careful in the details and process of its construction for a rocket to be good. If you do that and carefully, you can have yourself a good rocket." 19. TEAMS LIGHTING ROCKETS UP CLOSE 20. WIDE VIEW OF ROCKETS BEING FIRED TOWARDS SAINT MARK'S 21. SAINT MARK'S BEING HIT BY ROCKETS 22. ROCKETS BEING FIRED TOWARDS PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH 23. ROCKETS HITTING PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH 24. CROSSFIRE OF ROCKETS AS TEAMS FIRE AT EACH OTHER AT THE SAME TIME 25. PEOPLE GATHERED ON THE STREETS TO WATCH SPECTACLE 26. FAMILY SITTING ON THE BALCONY OF THEIR HOME WATCHING ROCKETS 27. CLOSE VIEW OF ROCKETS LEAVING 28. VARIOUS VIEWS OF SPARKS OF ROCKETS FROM UNDERNEATH, HITTING PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH 29. WOMAN GOING TO EASTER MASS RUNNING AND DUCKING TOWARDS PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH TO AVOID ROCKETS 30. PEOPLE INSIDE PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH FOR EASTER MASS LIGHTING CANDLES 31. PEOPLE INSIDE CHURCH STANDING BEHIND WIRE MESH WATCHING AS ROCKETS HIT WIRE MESH OF CHURCH IN FRONT OF THEM, WOMEN SQUEAL 32. WIDE VIEW OF WAVES OF ROCKETS POUNDING PANAGIA ERITHENIA CHURCH / RETALIATORY ROCKETS 33. ROCKETS HITTING SAINT MARK'S CHURCH 34. CROSSFIRE FROM BOTH SIDES AS TWO TEAMS FIRE AT EACH OTHER 35. SMOKE FROM ROCKETS FILLS VALLEY Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 26th April 2004 13:00
- Location: CHIOS, GREECE
- Country: Greece
- Reuters ID: LVA6WGXDU3ZTLQO2SYOKCCXGJGW2
- Story Text: Every year during Easter a war breaks out on the
Greek island of Chios.
It's called the rocket war of Vrondados. Once a year
during Easter, on the night of the resurrection of Christ,
the parishioners of two Orthodox churches in the town of
Vrodandos on the eastern Greek island of Chios become for a
short time, opponents in a war like no other.
As Easter mass takes place on Sunday (April 10) to mark
the resurrection of Christ at midnight, the two rival gangs
fire thousands of handmade rockets filled with the
ingredients used to make gunpowder across a valley at each
The objective is to hit the bell tower of the
opponent's church, but what ensues is a huge spectacle of
streaking lights whizzing towards each other across the
sky, and filling the town with billowing smoke. Air raid
sirens wail across the town to inform the inhabitants of
the approaching rockets, as if in the wake of a World War
II bombing, and thousands of people gather to watch as the
rockets strike the churches of Saint Mark and Panagia
Inside the churches the Easter mass takes place despite
the smashing of rockets against its walls, and church goers
run to reach the church for mass and watch their approach
from the church's protective wire sheeting encircling the
church. The sound of the church bells ringing to announce
Christ's resurrection is drowned out by the popping and
whizzing sounds of the rockets.
The rocket war is a tradition that dates back to the
early 19th century at the time of the Ottoman occupation.
Although the facts around its origin have been lost through
time, the most popular legend that survives is the story of
the island's sailors who used to battle pirates with
cannons on their ships.
When the sailors returned to the island they brought
back with them these small cannons, and began a custom of
firing them at the Easter holiday. In 1889, the Ottoman
occupiers banned the custom and confiscated the cannons,
fearing the cannons would be used in a revolt. The locals
replaced the cannons with handmade rockets. And the
parishioners of the two churches, who were always in
competition with each other, added the competition that
The tradition does not come without its dangers
however. Small fires have broken out in the valley nestled
between the two churches, and the island's fire brigade
swiftly rushes in to smother the fires ignited by stray
rockets. It has also caused injuries, even deaths in the
past, to those participating, and each year safety measures
are heightened by the local authorities.
Days before the event is to take place residents who
have homes around the two churches 'wrap' their homes in
hundreds of metres of wire sheeting. They board up windows
and doors. The force of the rockets is so strong it can
puncture glass and wood and knocks pieces off homes.
Some residents whose homes are directly beneath the
church have turned them into fortresses and complain that
they are tired of repairing them every year after Easter.
"We live as hostages to this tradition. We can't
breathe when it takes place, we have to be on standby in
case a fire breaks out, and if you are not careful you can
even lose your house,' says resident George Koulouris,
adding he doesn't want the tradition to stop, but reduced
It is not only the force of the rockets but the
quantity that are fired. The tradition has become so
popular that more and more rockets are fired each year;
this year more than 25 thousand rockets were made.
And making the rockets has become a cult on the island.
Some 150 people participate in their construction, which
takes place year round. There is a special art to making
the rocket, knowing how to mix the right amount of sulphur,
charcoal and potassium nitrate to create a rocket with a
larger explosion and faster speed, and it has become a refined
craft. But its construction is also very dangerous.
Makers use bronze tools to minimize the creation of
heat caused by friction during the hammering of the rocket
which could cause it to explode. The rocket making teams
work out of old derelict buildings while making the
rockets, and leave the doors open in case they need to make
a speedy exit during an explosion. They also work in these
buildings to stay out of sight of the police: making the
rockets is actually illegal, and some have been arrested
and charged for it. But police tend to turn a blind eye to
the event each year due to the tradition, and the local
authorities are trying to make it legal.
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