Appeal to preserve important antiquities in the Thessaloniki Metro and petition, 5/2/2013
Appeal to preserve important antiquities in the Thessaloniki Metro
Archaeologists have brought to light the heart of Byzantine Thessaloniki during the construction of the city’s underground railway network. The finds are remarkably intact and include: a 76-metre section of the city’s main paved road (decumanus) which was found in excellent condition, built remains dating from the 6th-9th century AD, and—most rarely of all—large public structures from the 7th century. Since both the Byzantine main road and the new Metro tunnel run under modern-day Egnatia Street (at depths of 6 and c.11 metres respectively), they provide an excellent snapshot of Thessaloniki’s built development over the centuries in which different eras from the city’s past and present can be viewed side by side.
Despite appeals made by the Association of Greek Archaeologists for the issue to be reexamined, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports has decided to have the antiquities detached and moved. This decision, which concurs with the proposals put forward by the technical staff of ATTIKO METRO SA, would deprive the city of the potential to create a unique archaeological site within a Metro station.
We believe the issue should be taken up by the entire academic community, as well as by the people of Thessaloniki, since:
The antiquities of Thessaloniki have already suffered excessively at the hands of post-war development: almost all the intra muros city has been rebuilt since 1948, with only very occasional archaeological excavations taking place on privately-owned plots. This horrific practice followed in the first post-war decades has resulted in the obscuration of both the material remains, and our historical knowledge, of the second most important city, after Constantinople, in the Byzantine Empire. Indeed, even during recent decades, in which the Archaeological Service has conducted careful rescue excavations, antiquities have continued to be covered up under new structures given that the state has not implemented a policy of compulsory purchases and has failed to display the finds that came to light during these excavations. That portion of Thessaloniki’s urban fabric that has been brought to light acquires even greater significance as a result.
The digging of the Metro tunnel under modern-day Egnatia street has already resulted in the removal of other sections of ancient and Byzantine Thessaloniki from their original positions, given the failure of the relevant authorities to heed the timely warnings of the Archaeological Service and its suggestion that the tunnel be dug elsewhere so that important antiquities could be preserved and additional delays avoided. Instead of acknowledging these warnings, however, the people responsible have implemented a systematic policy of blaming the archaeological services for the delays and the ever-increasing budget, even though they were fully aware before work began of the difficulties involved, and despite the fact that the majority of delays have been technical in nature.
Together, the paved leoforos and its intersection with the older route that is now Venizelos street, which led to the city’s port, and the remains of the structures adjacent to these ancient roads, comprise a complex which must be declared ‘immovable’ under the provisions of international treaties intended to protect cultural heritage. Every effort must therefore be made to exhaust the possibilities of displaying them in situ. An ancient road cannot be termed an ‘exhibit’: move it elsewhere and it loses its history and its place as a city road. On the other hand, if a technical solution were found which would allow the road to be exhibited in situ as a visitable archaeological site inside the Metro station, it will constitute a unique example of the preservation of Thessaloniki’s history and an attraction for visitors to the city. The search for an architectural and technical solution resulting in an underground railway station that guides passengers through the history of the city as well as their everyday transportation would constitute a European and international first; by enabling cultural heritage and everyday life to coexist side by side, such an undertaking would build on the successful interventions in Metro stations in Athens, as well as providing Greece’s second city with a unique architectural / archaeological / transportation feature.
For all the above reasons, the Association of Greek Archaeologists requests that the decision to move the antiquities to the Pavlos Melas barracks be re-examined and that every effort be made to find a technical solution which would allow them to be preserved in situ as a visitable archaeological site inside Venizelos Metro station.
ASSOCIATION OF GREEK ARCHAEOLOGISTS
PETITION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF IMPORTANT ANTIQUITIES AT THE HEART OF ROMAN AND BYZANTINE THESSALONIKI
Ο Σύλλογος Ελλήνων Αρχαιολόγων κάνει διεθνή έκκληση για τη ΔΙΑΣΩΣΗ ΚΑΙ ΣΥΝΥΠΑΡΞΗ ΤΩΝ ΜΟΝΑΔΙΚΩΝ ΜΝΗΜΕΙΩΝ 4ου-9ου αιώνα με το ΣΤΑΘΜΟ ΜΕΤΡΟ στη ΒΕΝΙΖΕΛΟΥ, το διαχρονικό ιστορικό & εμπορικό κέντρο της ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗΣ. ΠΑΡΑΚΑΛΟΥΜΕ ΥΠΟΓΡΑΨΤΕ ΗΛΕΚΤΡΟΝΙΚΑ & ΔΙΑΔΩΣΤΕ το ΣΥΝΔΕΣΜΟ της ΕΚΚΛΗΣΗΣ (petition) ) ΜΕΣΩ ΤΩΝ ΕΠΑΦΩΝ ΣΑΣ σε E-mail και άλλα κοινωνικά δίκτυα.
Breaking the heart of Thessaloniki through time?
Save city’s byzantine center, the city’s memory and identity!
Recent rescue excavations contacting by the Greek Archaeological Service at the historical center of Thessaloniki, Northern Greece, due to the construction of modern city’s Metro Station (Venizelou str.), revealed one of the most significant material evidence of city’s urban life at 6th – 9th century: the monumental Gate (Tetraphylon) placed at the crossroad of the central avenue (decumanus) with the road leading to the harbor. The central road (ca. 76 m in length) was paved with marble plaques, and framed by public buildings. These extraordinary finds signify the city’s early urban development and constitute a unique monumental evidence of social, commercial, administrative and every day life in early byzantine Thessaloniki.
The decision, made up by the State, of removing the whole monumental complex and placing it in a far distant ex-army camp undermines the essence of the un-movable archaeological monument according to the Greek and International Law. Thus, this rare piece of world heritage will loose its original place and context and far more its exceptional archaeological/historical character.
Consider what will be the Eifel Tower or the Big Ben removed from their original place?
The citizens of Thessaloniki, as well the citizens all over the World have the right to stay attached with this monument and stay connected with their heritage, memory and identity through time.
Please sing up and vote in order to save this irreplaceable monument. There are technical solutions to preserve it and place it straight to heart of Thessaloniki’s modern life.