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Athens News Agency: News in English, 12-02-03

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] An outdoor gallery of sculpture masterpieces

  • [01] An outdoor gallery of sculpture masterpieces

    AMNA---Athens' First Cemetery is not only a landmark of the Greek capital and final resting place of many of the greatest figures of Greece, but also a veritable outdoor sculpture gallery containing some of the most famed and significant masterpieces of sculpted art.

    Here lie the most important figures in Greece's political but also intellectual history: Heroes of the 1821 Revolution, national benefactors and politicians who were instrumental in forming the country's modern history, but also great artistic figures.

    This precious national treasure is in danger, however, due to the ravages of time and exposure to the elements that are taking their toll on these monuments and, following an application by the City of Athens, has been included in the World Monuments Fund's 2012 'Watch List of Endangered Sites', a programme that aims to attract donor and sponsor attention to the problem.

    City of Athens deputy mayor for cemeteries and administrative support Nikos Kokkinos told AMNA that "we decided to seek inclusion in this list in a bid to save the sculptures in the First Cemetery of Athens".

    Atmospheric pollution, the passage of time and human intervention have left an indelible mark on the Cemetery's monuments, he noted, adding that cleaning and restoration of the monuments is a very expensive process, and the municipality has trouble with covering the cost.

    The First Cemetery of Athens is on the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe's (ASCE) list of the approximately 150 significant cemeteries across Europe of significant cultural heritage with great potential for research about history, culture and architecture. Many of these amazing cemeteries, including Athens' are also contained in the European Cemeteries Route, a tourist route across cemeteries of Europe, which has also been designated as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.amna

    The First Cemetery of Athens (A' Koimitirio Athinon), Athens' oldest cemetery, was founded around 1837, just after Athens was established as the capital city of the modern Greek state (1834). It was founded by virtue of an 1834 Royal Decree "on cemeteries and burial of the dead" that abolished burial around churches and placed the responsibility for cemeteries under the jurisdiction of the municipalities and communities.

    It spreads on the slope of the Ardittos hill, close to the ancient marble Panathinaiko Stadium. Its initial design and expanse are unknown, but the first works were conducted in 1837 by the then city's architect Friedrich Stauffert

    The style of the cemetery can be traced to the Romantic period. Major Greek figures are buried in the First Cemetery: heroes of the Greek Revolution, politicians, poets, artists. The collection of sculptures hosted in the cemetery can be considered as a most significant and genuine example of the quality attained in marble carving in Greece between 1850 and 1920. Memorial art flourished during the 19th century and marked the rebirth of the new Greek state. All kinds of monuments and ornamental patterns appeared which conveyed the influence of ancient times (stelae, columns, reliefs, sarcophagi, small neoclassical temples). Apart from funerary artworks based on ancient models, some samples can be found of Byzantine and Egyptian patterns, as well as a remarkable number of copper masterpieces.amna

    The first depiction of the cemetery is in Emmanuil Kallergis' "Topographical Plan of Athens and its surrounds" (Paris, 1860), showing the initial core of the Cemetery to be around the 1840 church of St. Lazarus, while the first known blueprint is that by a city engineer in 1896 showing a central path leading up to the entrance of the church, lined on both sides the most significant graves. A second church, dedicated to the Aghioi (Sts.) Theodoroi, was built in 1899-1901, while the Catholic church of St. Charles and the Byzantine-style ossuary were built in 1928.

    According to City of Athens architect Katerina Tsatouha, the Cemetery, with respect to art, is the largest outdoor collection of funerary sculptures of modern Greece. "Almost all the sculptors of the 19th century, as well as the significant sculptors of the 20th century, are represented with sculpted works of marble and metal", such as the architect Ziller, sculptors Yannoulis Halepas, Ioannis Vitsaris, Dimitrios Filippotis and Michalis Tombros.amna

    The most famous sculpture in the Cemetery is Halepas' "Sleeping Female Figure' (1877), which he created at the age of 26 and was placed on the grave of Sophia Afentaki, the daughter of a prominent family from the island of Kimolos who died at 18 from tuberculosis. Another famous monument is the tomb of German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who discovered Troy, created by Ernst Ziller in 1892.

    The Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe (ASCE) is the European network comprising those public and private organisations which care for cemeteries considered to be of historical or artistic importance. ASCE in a not-for-profit organisation with a clear and global character. Its objectives are to promote European cemeteries as a fundamental part of the heritage of the humanity and to raise European citizen awareness of the importance of significant cemeteries, through sharing experiences and best practices and co-operating to protect, restores and ensure ongoing care and maintenance to cemeteries.amna

    According to ASCE, visiting the cemetery/ies of a city is an increasingly common activity when we want to know in depth the destinations we visit. The European Cemeteries Route is a proposal for tourism promotion and heritage promotion. It is an effort to recover, maintain and make available the most significant cemeteries of the Continent to the public. Instead of being a fixed pre-established circuit, this Route offers a wide variety of cemeteries already opened to the public to disclose the European funerary heritage. It is a consolidated cultural product targeted to all types of publics, through which citizens and visitors will obtain information and will be in contact with the important funerary heritage present in the European Continent in a uniform and comprehensive manner.

    The main objectives of the Route include:

    Promoting the significant funerary heritage for its artistic and historic value.

    Bringing public and private awareness to an irreplaceable and highly important heritage for the European cultural movement.

    Establishing new vehicles of collaboration among European countries and regions and help the cohesion of the territory with a common project which offers a new transnational experience through a cross-border European route.

    Encouraging restoration of funerary landscape.

    Providing an itinerary that not only offers a route to visit but a tool for knowledge and continued research.

    Being the starting point for other initiatives of study and promotion, such as, congresses, expositions, etc., and training and awareness-raising activities.

    Promoting education in schools, incorporating the Route to their ordinary cultural visits in a dynamic and pedagogic manner.


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