The mystery and allure of ancient Delphi have been an influence to many a curious traveler. One such individual was Eva Palmer Sikelianos, a foreigner with a thirst for Hellenic culture, who took it upon herself to celebrate the arts and history of antiquity through her life project: the Delphic Festivals.
A revival of Greek ideas, the Delphic Festivals of 1927 and 1930 were successfully organized by couple Eva and Angelos Sikelianos. They included speeches, athletic competitions and drama performances, folk exhibitions and Byzantine music concerts, attracting politicians, scholars, actors, artists and other notable attendees from around the world.
Photographs, costumes and other artifacts commemorating the festivals and their organizers are on display today in the couple’s former residence, a restored two-story neo-Gothic building near the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
The tiny museum hosts rich photographic material featuring the various unique costumes handcrafted on the loom by Eva Palmer Sikelianos herself, some pieces of which are also on display. Other personal objects including a number of Angelos Sikelianos’ manuscripts and his 1939 handwritten five-page poem, Styx’s Oath, also comprise the museum’s collection.
The couple’s stone-built residence was completed in 1926 under Eva Palmer Sikelianos’ supervision. It was abandoned just a few years later in 1933, expropriated in the 1960’s in favor of the Greek National Tourism Organisation, and restored by the European Cultural Centre of Delphi in 1985, finally opening its doors as a museum in the summer of 1991.
The daughter of New York aristocrats, Eva Palmer Sikelianos spent much of her inheritance on life in Greece and organizing the Delphic Festivals. A Greek-born poet and law school dropout, Angelos Sikelianos joined his wife in her efforts to revive the Delphic Idea, a classical view on life. Facing major financial problems and poor health, he died in 1951 and was buried at the Athens First Cemetery. Divorced from her husband in 1934, Eva Palmer Sikelianos moved back to America and died while attending a theatrical performance during a visit to Delphi in 1952. Per her wishes, she was buried on the sacred grounds.
WORDS + PHOTOS: Portes Magazine | Museum of Delphic Festivals Collection