These rival churches in Greece certainly start the Easter Sunday service with a bang!
When: Orthodox Easter Saturday every year. April 15th 2012. May 4th 2013.
Where: Vrontados, Island of Chios, Greece.
Rouketopolemos (meaning Rocket-War) is a local Easter tradition in the pretty town of Vrontados on the Greek island of Chios, where two rival churches fire thousands of specially made rockets at eachother with the objective of hitting the bell tower of the opposing church.
Earlier in the week both churches (and the surrounding buildings) are boarded up with metal sheets and mesh to protect them from damage. The parishioners of each church meet in their respective churchyards to start the bombardment of around 60,000 rockets during midnight mass on the eve of Easter Sunday, whilst the priests inside the church attempt to deliver their sermons amidst all the noise and confusion outside.
The two rival churches (Saint Mark’s and the Virgin Mary Erethianis) are built on separate hilltops about 400 meters apart. Direct hits on each belfry are supposedly counted to determine the winner, but usually no winner can be clearly determined so both parishes agree to settle the score same time, same place next year.
The origin of this explosive event is said to have come from a time when real cannons were used to signify the Easter midnight mass. During the Ottoman era the cannons were confiscated in case of an uprising so home made rockets were then used instead. The tradition then became a source of rivalry between the two churches and the annual rocket war was born.
You can find more information on the Official Rouketopolemos website
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