The Mermaid’s Chapel

The night before I made this drawing, I went with my friends for cocktails at the home of the former ambassador to Greece and his wife, who have a beautiful house there on the edge of Kastro, overlooking the ocean. I went outside to their patio, to take in the view of the water. This is something that sounds terrible to me, all of a sudden–“take in a view” is an awful way to describe what I felt.

I felt like I should be able to see mermaids, and when Gabe, my friend Sabina’s son, joined me outside, I said as much to him. He agreed. Yeah, he said. Mermen too.

Gabe is a big believer in gender parity, at age 6, which is part of what’s so great about him.

When I was told this was called the Mermaid’s Chapel soon after that, I experienced something like a confirmation of my sense of there being mermaids there. I never found out why this was called the Mermaid’s Chapel. And I may even have it wrong. The legend I was told about this chapel was that there were two lovers who were being chased by pirates, and they prayed for help from God. The rock split, protecting them, and making this spit of rock the chapel stands on.

In this drawing, I can see how I’m trying to figure out how to draw the rocks, which are incredible there. I experimented with different kinds of lines. There were kestrels, also, making these incredible dives on the wind, and so I drew them in as well.

Kastro was a Venetian settlement on Sifnos, and of the towns, has a kind of Greek architecture that’s unique, that winds into and around itself in a way that is very confusing–it’s easy to end up in someone’s courtyard or suddenly down along the cliff, far away from where you wanted to be. It lends itself to taking chances. Nick, Gabe’s older brother, told me this style was meant to confuse pirates. On the days I spent walking around Kastro after he said that, I kept imagining of lost pirates, paused in the alleys, trying to decide where to go.


  1. I think there’s a story in that legend-pirates that become less roving marauders and more melancholy and internalized as they wander entangled for days. “Well there was not much use for the gold and silver then.”

  2. It’s strange to me that you find the phrasing of taking in a view to be awful. A little cliched, maybe, but when you think of the implications of taking something in, drinking it, breathing it, it doesn’t seem such a bad thing to do, taking it in.

  3. RJ: It just sounds cheesy to me.

    Chris: For me, I imagine the mermaids sneaking in at night to pray.

  4. To me, the mermaids (or merpeople) are the lovers, with both the pirates and them being lost in the canals and town paths-yeah I am definitely starting a story out of this.

  5. I feel as if I’m floating above the scene in the drawing. I keep studying the detail in the left panel, and am fascinated by the openness in the right panel.

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