I f you visit Vrontados on the Greek island of Chios in the week before Easter, you’ll spot locals hard at work erecting protective fencing around their houses. Stay until midnight on Easter Sunday and you’ll find out why.
Inside two local churches, Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani, the midnight liturgy is performed as usual, but in the skies above Vrontados, war rages. Members from each congregations fire thousands of homemade rockets at the rival church, lighting up the sky in a tradition that dates back over 100 years. The aim: to hit the opponent’s bell tower. Each church counts their hits and claims victory the next day, before agreeing to continue the fight next year and settle the score then.
‘Rouketopolemos’ can cause a lot of collateral damage, necessitating the extra protection on nearby housing, and some locals begrudge having to make the effort. But for many, the sight of thousands of colourful fireworks carving up the night’s sky make it all worthwhile.
Leon Neal/Getty Images