1. Position and coastline

Leipsoi is between Patmos and Leros. There are a large number of inlets and small islands and in particular Makronisi with its impressive rock formations and caves have made it a popular tourist destination.

2. The island’s name

In mythology Leipsoi is identified as Ogygia the island of the nymph Kalipso, who tried to get Odysseus to stay with her for ever. On a marble tablet dated 2nd -3rdC BC the island is referred to as Leipsoi.

3. History

The Carians inhabited the island in about 1200 BC and were succeeded by the Dorians. The inscription on a marble tablet refers to people from Miletos confirming the arrival of the Ionians who came from Asia Minor.

The island’s museum houses remains of the Mycenaean period 1600-1100 BC and of the Geometric period 1100-800 BC. The remains of foundations of a 4thC BC fortification are the basis for the theory that there was an acropolis on the SE side of the hill where there is a village today which was probably the site of an ancient town. Between the town and the acropolis there is an extensive burial ground which was used from Classic to Roman times. During the Peloponnesian War ships of both sides anchored off the islands of the area.

At the church of Panaghia of Kouselio, there are the remains of an early Christian church with a large Baptistery in the shape of a cross. During the Byzantium period the increase of pirate activity lead to a population decrease and the island becoming a pirate hideaway.

In 1088 Alexios the First, Komninos granted St Christodoulos the Latrinos the whole island of Patmos and the surrounding islands with a golden bull. One of these islands was Leipsoi which came under the jurisdiction of The Monastery at Patmos. For about six centuries the island functioned as farm land and grazing pastures for the Monastery.

In 1308 Leipsoi along with the other islands of the Dodecanese was occupied by the order of Knights of St John of Jerusalem and in 1522 it became part of the Ottoman Empire. According to some sources after the Ottoman suppression of Crete in 1669 the Cretans sought refuge on Leipsoi. During the Greek War of Independence of 1821 the island offered hospitality to the Patriach of Alexandria Theophilus and to the sea captains of Hydra, psarianos and Spetse. Then after the treaty of Constantinople was signed, on the 9th July 1832, Leipsoi once again came under Ottoman rule. In 1912 it passed into Italian hands, 1943 saw the German occupation and in 1945 it was under temporary British administration. Finally in 1948 it was united with the rest of Greece.

The island has a large number of churches many of which were renovated and maintained by Archimandrite Nikiphoros Koumondouros the remainder are maintained by their owners. Among the local specialities are the Leipsoian bread, which smells deliciously of caraway, mastic and nutmeg, and the local sweet red wine. During the Italian occupation the Vatican was supplied with avamma that same wine. Leipsoi belongs to union of winemaking towns of Europe ‘Resevil’and on 10th August they have a wine festival.

4. The church of Panaghia of Charos

The church of Panaghia of Harou is one of the oldest churches on the island. It was built in 1600 by the Monastery of Patmos. The name of the church, which means Our Lady of Death, originates from the icon showing The Virgin Mary holding a crucifix of Christ. On the 23rd August, nine days after the assumption of the Virgin, there is a festival that is attended by people from all the surrounding islands. Since April 1943 it is considered that the miracle with the lilies is repeated, so in spring people put lilies on the Icon where they are left to dry. In August the dried stems are said to bud and on the day of the festival flower. After the evening service everyone celebrates outside in the two squares of the village until morning.