The American woman that marked modern Delphi.
It was in 1904 that Eva Palmer closed the door of her lovely house in Paris, leaving behind not only all her personal belongings but an easy and most promising life. Her studies in theatre and poetry could not satisfy her anymore. Although all of her friends and family in the United States insisted that she should change her mind, she knew deep in her heart that her trip to Greece was bringing her closer to her destiny.
Eva Palmer Sikealianos
On the right, photo of Eva Palmer Sikealianos from the Archives of Vivette Tsarlamba-Kaklamani.
On the left, photo of Eva Palmer Sikelianos aged 18 from “Upward Panic”
A Meeting That Would Change Everything
In Athens, she met Angelos Sikelianos, a young Greek poet, who spoke directly to her heart and spirit. She understood at the very first glance that he was a dreamer and a darer, as her own father was. A perfect companion for marriage, a spiritual bond and a coupling that would put ideas into action.
“Before he even has arrived (Angelos Sikelianos), I had the impression that I knew very well his appearance,
as someone thinks that with his imagination can capture the colours of
the Greek sea or the lines of the Greek sea or the lines of the Greek mountains before his eyes sees them.
Later on I realized that you cannot imagine these things… you cannot remember the light,
the unbelievable lines and the eternally alternating colors because the Greek land is very much alive. “
Upward Panic (Autobiography) Eva Palmer-Sikelianos
Eva and Angelos chose Delphi, in Central Greece to be the place where they would make their vision come true. The establishment of the Delphic Center of Knowledge, Arts and Science for all people. The historical and geographical significance of Delphi was the main reason for that choice.
But it was also because of the astonishing natural scenery around the ancient theatre of Delphi. A view where the sea of olive trees blend with the sea of the Corinthian Gulf and captures the senses.
So they built their beautiful house in 1924-26 in Delphi between the threshing floors and the archaeological site and they immediately started working for their purpose.
Organizing the Delphic Festivals that would take place in 1927 and 1930.
Delphic Festivals – A Cultural Triumph That Was Misunderstood
The Delphic Festivals were an enormous artistic and cultural success. For three days the sacred rocks of ancient Delphi echoed the sounds of Theatre, Music and Athletic Competitions. Eva Palmer acted as a brilliant cultural and touristic manager, director, producer, artist and artisan and she managed to give bones and flesh to hers and her companion’s vision.
Delphi at that time was a small village that had been moved from its original location due to the archaeological excavations taking place.
There was no road connection to Athens yet. The historical and cultural significance of the heritage of Delphi was something that for the villagers could not be totally understood. Only when the visitors started to arrive in Delphi to see the area, did they begin to realize that something rare and important was hidden at the basements of their houses.
Pushing Through The Obstacles
Despite the obstacles and controversial voices, Eva and Angelos managed to organize this event with tremendous success. They hosted thousands of distinguished visitors from Greece and Europe.
Artists, politicians, poets, writers, philosophers, journalists, aristocrats and many more carried along the difficult way by boat or train and then by car or donkeys up to Delphi.
The audience watched Greek Tragedy in the Delphic Ancient Theatre, the first to do so in modern Greece after thousands of years. They watched athletic games and dance routines by young Greek men, they listened to ancient and traditional Greek music, they were guided to the archaeological ruins and beautiful landscapes of Delphi by professors and archaeologists.
They admired unique pieces of artisan Greek art in organized exhibitions into the villagers’ houses. They tasted simply prepared but exquisite Greek food and drunk local wine while experiencing the authentic Greek hospitality.
Everybody loved Delphi and the Delphic Festivals but maybe for the wrong reasons.
Arguably, not everybody got the significance and the point of Eva’s and Angelos vision but they loved the place and modern Greece as a cultural and touristic destination, nevertheless.
On the other hand, the Greeks discovered ways to promote their country and organize their services for people that would love to visit the country.
The mark of Eva Palmer Sikelianos on Delphi
The Delphic Festivals were a great school and we can still recognize their tremendous impact on Delphi.
The House of Angelos and Eva Sikelianos is nowadays the Museum of the Delphic Festivals where you can immerse yourself in history and learn about all the details of this admiring story. Although the Delphic Centre did not become a reality as originally imagined, the European Cultural Centre of Delphi was born in 1972. The “child” of the original idea is now where modern art is exhibited and several cultural and scientific events are hosted throughout the year.
The well informed visitor of Delphi must see them all, they are part of its great history and they are located in unique spots of Delphi where the view and the atmosphere each time of the day and in each season is breathtaking.
And all these thanks to a charismatic woman, Eva Palmer Sikelianos, that dedicated her life to Delphi and to her ideal cause.