From antiquity the island of Lesvos has been the homeland for personas to leave their stamp mark at the Greek and global arts and culture. Sapfo
, the remarkably educated and most lyric poet of all times and Theophrastus philosopher of Eresus
, to lead the Peripatetic School and later train Alexander the Great along with Aristotle, where the ones to put the cultural foundations in the island. The national naïf painter, Theophilos
was raised in Lesvos, to gain recognition after his death, as another local world known art critic, Stratis Eleftheriadis-Tériade
, removed him from obscurity after organizing a large exhibition of his paintings in Paris. Tériade through years of work he managed to work with established periodicals, books and newspapers to publish articles on art that gained him worldwide recognition. Above all, Lesvos is the motherland of a descendant of an old industrial family, the only Greek Nobel Price winner in Literature and one of the greatest poets across the country, well renowned around the world, Odysseas Elitis.
As Lesvos was an island of strategic importance within the Northern Aegean and experienced a vibrant civilization from the Neolithic Period onward, it has been a land to enjoy cultural and economic flourishing and decline while being occupied by Romans, Venetians, Genoese and Ottomans, all to leave imperishable marks across its grounds. Its archaeological sites are numerous to feature an Ancient Greek Theatre
in Mytiline town that dates back to the Hellenistic age and is thought to be as important and beautiful as the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus and the Ancient Temple of Klopedi
situated in Agia Paraskevi, the sole example of Aeolian architecture around Greece and the most significant religious temples in Lesvos to hold the Altar of the island. The Roman occupancy is apparent at
the Roman Aqueduct
, near Moria Village featuring a stunning 170-meter site which was one of the most important and earliest types of infrastructure built on the island. Remains of the castles of Lesvos still stand proudly across the island as a kind reminder of its war history. The Castle of Mytilene
, one of the largest of its kind across the Mediterranean, was built around a hill close to the port in the 5th century by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in order to protect the island from the pirates. Since that time and after the occupation of Genoese, Venetians and Ottomans, the castle went through several reconstructions to nowadays host inside its walls, Genoese and Ottoman inscriptions, remains of a mosque, tombs and a sarcophagus as well as a sanctuary in honour to ancient goddesses Demetra, an Ottoman monastery and bath, a Military Hospital and a Byzantine cistern. Soon after the liberation of the island, the castle turned into barracks with underground tunnels used as shelter during war times. The second most significant castle of Lesvos to dominate the northern side of the island is the Castle of Molyvos or Mithimna
, also built on the top of a verdant hill, above the village of Molyvos. Build during the 13th century and renovated by the Genoese to be additionally reformed by the Ottomans, the castle being one of the best preserved across the Mediterranean, features elements of all its phases. The strong walls of the castle of red and brown basaltic stones are charmed with ten soaring towers, while three consecutive gates lead to the entrance of
the fortress. By reaching the third gate made of wood and metal cladding built in the 14th century, visitors can admire the unique defence system of the fortress called zematistres, a place where boiling hot oil and tar was places in order to discourage the intruders. Inside the fort several remains stand, such as a Byzantine water tank, a powder magazine roofed under a domed building, as well as inscriptions, coat of arms and other distinctive elements. Finally the Caste of Sigri
lies on the top hill of the homonymous village and the later one to be built during the Ottoman occupation, also to protect the port from pirates’ invasions. Four towers surround this smaller scale fort, which features an impressive entrance made of iron and wood crowned by an Arabian arch made of white and red stones, a zematistra, arched lintels, prison cells, along with two inscriptions with imperial monograms.
The richness of Lesvos’ history and glory is depicted in the numerous museums to unfold in the visitors’ eyes aspects of its cultural heritage. The initial Archaeological Museum
of Mytiline houses the unique Aeolian capitals of the Temple of Klopedi along with other findings from Prehistoric to Roman eras, while the new construction houses the permanent exhibition ”Lesvos from the Hellenistic to the Roman era”, focusing on the specific glorious ancient times of the island, among which is Roman mosaics, floors and frescoes. In the village of Varia, the homeland of Stratis Eleftheriades- Teriade is the Teriade Museum & Library
so as to honour the world famous art critic and publisher. The museum houses the “Great Books” illustrated by leading 20th century artists such as Chagall, Matisse and Picasso along with some of their
paintings. Right next to it, lovers of art can find the Museum of Theofilos,
donated by Teriade himself to exhibit the latest 86 works of the great folklore painter, illustrating parts of the Greek history, mythology and local traditions, also originated from the same village. The strong artistic heritage of the island has been disseminated to the younger generation with the Digital Museum of George Iakovidis
that exploits for the first time in Greece new technologies and interactive methods to emerge the life and work of this fine painter, located at his birthplace Chidira. The city centre of Mytiline hosts the Byzantine Ecclesiastical Museum
to exhibit gold-embroidered vestments, old books, ecclesiastical vessels, etc. The traditional production methods of the local products dating back in centuries are vividly illustrated at the Museum of Industrial Olive Oil Production
in Agia Paraskeui to exhibit all the stages of its production, while in Plomari visitors can find the Museum of Soap and the Museum of Ouzo Barbayannis.
Finally Lesvos boasts some astonishing churches of great historical and architectural value. The church of Agios Therapontas,
dedicated to Saint John the Healer is the landmark of Mytiline standing near the pier, built on the site of the Ancient Asklypeion. A cross shaped building crowned by an imposing dome, charmed with several Renaissance and neoclassical elements, to roof a three-aisled basilica with marvellous wooden chancel screen and a fine collection of icons. The cathedral church of the city, Agios Athanasios
located at the city centre, was constructed
during the 16th century. It is a breath taking cruciform basilica with three aisles, a central dome and its enormous Gothic-style bell tower to house magnificent Renaissance influenced paintings, post-Byzantine wood carvings, unique icons such as the one of Jesus Christ and an underground tomb with relics of Saint Theodoros. The church of Taxiarches
lies near the village of Mandamados, built during the 18th century, houses an old golden stole, bibles and other religious books. Other than numerous astonishing churches, Lesvos counts several monasteries, the most significant being the Monastery of Saint Raphael
, well known for his miracles to attract flocks of Christians. Built on the area indicated to Saint Raphael through appearances during his sleep on the hill Karies, it houses his relics as well as the ones of Saint Nicholas and Saint Irene, all martyred there after an Ottoman attack.