Palio Romiri is an inland village in the Pylos district of Messinia. The settlement has been gradually abandoned by its residents from the early 1940s, due to lack of basic amenities such as electricity or running water…,and it became completely deserted by the early 1970s…The inhabitants resettled in nearby locations of Mesopotamos and Veli.
The old village, stone built and picturesque, is especially loved by those who lived their as children, remembering it as a magical place. In May the locals and visitors gather in Palio Romiri overcome with nostalgia to celebrate the patron saint of the village, St Nicholas of the Mountain (Άγιο Νικόλαο τον εν Βουνένοις), with a liturgy and a feast (Saint’s day is always May, 9th but the celebration happens on Sunday which is the closest to this date).
Before reaching the St Nicholas church one has to walk or rather climb through the whole village which spirals around a hill..Somewhere in the middle of the road…there is a house with a courtyard where an episode took place which has become famous through means of a song…Written in a tsamiko rhythm it is one of the most popular dances played at traditional feasts throughout the whole Greece…It is a song entitled “Papalambrena” The story of “Papalambrena”
In 1860… Stavros Fitsialos from Arcadia was in a heated dispute with the affluent Zervas family from Romiri, feeling wronged he decided to take revenge. One night he led 40 armed thieves to the village. Initially they hid in the forest nearby…Next day, in the afternoon, two of the thieves came to the village, unarmed, and visited the house of Papalambros Zervos who was the village priest, pretending that they wanted to buy an ox…After discussing the purchase of the ox, Papalambros invited the two “travelers” to stay over night…Once the household was asleep the thieves gave a signal to those outside and made the assault. They tied the priest, ready to torture him, demanding from him to reveal where his money is hidden.One of Papalambros’ daughters, Panagiota, managed to escape calling out to her cousins…”George… Kostas…they are burning us”…alerting the rest of the village.The thieves tried to leave the priest’s house without delay, and they ran away to the west of the village. The locals pursued them and injured two of them. One deadly. He was buried by his companions in the village of Xilias. On account of this, a peasant made the lyrics of the song.The original words were as following:
Στου Παπαλά-Παπαπαλάμπραινα, στου Παπαλάμπρου την αυλή στου Παπαλάμπρου την αυλή, είναι μια μάζεψη πολλή. Καν ο Παπάς-Παπαλάμπραινα, καν ο παπάς είναι άρρωστος καν η παπαδιά πεθαίνει. Παπαλάμπραινα καημένη. Ούτ΄ ο Παπάς-Παπαλάμπραινα, ούτ΄ ο παπάς είν΄ άρρωστος ούτ΄ η παπαδιά πεθαίνει, Παπαλάμπραινα καημένη. Οι κλέφτες τους-Παπαλάμπραινα, οι κλέφτες τους εγδύσανε οι κλέφτες τους εγδύσανε, και τα λεφτά ζητήσανε. Μια λυγερή-Παπαλάμπραινα, μια λυγερή εφώναξε μια λυγερή εφώναξε, τους κλέφτες τους ετρόμαξε. Τρέξε Γιωργά-Παπαλάμπραινα, τρέξε Γιωργάκη ξάδερφε τρέξε Γιωργάκη ξάδερφε, οι κλέφτες μας εκάψανε.In Papala-Papalambrena, in Papalambros’ courtyard there is a big gathering. Even Papas-Papalambrena, even the priest is sick, the priest’s wife is dying, poor Papalambrena. This Papas-Papalambraina, so the priest is sick, so the priest’s wife is dying , poor Papalabrina. The thieves-Papalambrina, the thieves undressed them and asked for money. Papalambrena, the lean Papalambrena screamed and scared them off. Run Giorgos-Papalambrina, run Giorgaki cousin ran Giorgaki cousin, the thieves have burned us.As I was walking pass the Papalambros house and the courtyard…the feast was taking off on the hill top and the fist song played and danced was “Papalambrena”…