Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens

The history of the Byzantine and Christian Museum goes back to the end of the 19th century. Since 1884 the Christian Archaeological Society aimed at founding a Museum of Christian Archaeology, and they soon reached this target, under the direction of George Lambakis. The latter, full of enthusiasm, started collecting Christian relics, without having a permanent shelter available: The Museum was first housed in the building of the Holy Council, then in the basement of the Technical School, later in the Metropolitan Mansion and finally, since 1893, in a gallery of the Central National Museum. At the same time, a separate small collection of works of Byzantine and post- Byzantine art was housed in the Technical School.

The Museum was officially founded as a state institution in 1914, under the direction of Prof. Adamantiou, who transferred the collection from the Technical School to the left wing of the Academy of Athens and enriched it. The objects acquired by Adamantiou were no longer Christian relics, as those by Lambakis, but of National History and Art. In 1923 the collection of the Christian Archaeological Society was transferred to the ground floor of the Academy and joined the one of Adamantiou. In the same year Prof. Sotiriou took over the directorship of the Museum and started organising it on a scientific basis. The collections augmented and the objects were scientifically classified.

In 1926 the number of the objects rose impressively by the heirlooms of the refugees from Asia Minor. By combining the autonomy of the art with the national history, Sotiriou was asking for making the nation recognize its roots through the objects of the Museum. In 1930 he was assigned by the state the Mansion of Villa Ilissia, built by the architect Kleanthis in 1848, as the residence of the Duchess of Plaisance Sophie de Marbois. In 1960 Manolis Chatzidakis was appointed director of the Museum. Under his direction, many galleries as well as the conservation laboratory were rearranged. However, the permanent exhibition preserved the logic and the educational character given by Sotiriou. The interference of the directors that followed was reduced to a minimum in this respect.

In recent years the project for the extension of the museum has been completed. The extension is half-underground, over an area of 12000 square meters. Nowadays the re-exhibition of 20000 objects is being prepared. This number includes the collections of Byzantine and post-Byzantine icons, sculptures, objects of Minor Arts, wall-paintings, pottery, mosaics, textiles, manuscripts, early-printed books and reproductions of works of Byzantine art.

The proposition for the new exhibition will cover the period from late antiquity up to the 19th century. It will consist of units in which the works will be placed within their historical and social frame, while their aesthetical value will be pushed forward. Audio- visual systems, drawings and printed material will offer information about Byzantium and the period in which the Greek Nation was under foreign domination. The whole Museum cluster, extended over an area of 25000 square meters, will include, beyond the permanent exhibition, a building for temporary exhibitions, a library, conservation laboratories, a refreshment-room and restaurant, rooms for various events, educational programmes, a place for sculpture exhibition, sale-rooms and an open-air archaeological park.

Key Personnel

Dimitrios Konstantios is the Director of the Byzantine Museum of Athens, Greece. He holds a B.Sc of Classic Studies from the University of Ioannina, a B.Sc of History and Archaeology from University of Athens and a Ph.D. in Byzantine Art-University of Ioannina (1998). He also attended a seminar on submarine archaeology (1984).Since 1978, he is the Curator in the Greek archaeological service (Ministry of Culture). Since 1999, he is the Director of the Byzantine Museum of Athens.He is a member of several Greek and International Scientific Societies and Organisations. He has participated in numerous Greek and International congresses relevant to Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art as well as to the protection of cultural heritage. His publications include articles in newspapers and magazines and twenty articles relevant to Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art. Educator at 18 Seminars relevant to architecture, cultural heritage, archaeological sites and protection of the Greek monuments.

Andromachi Katselaki holds a B.Sc. of History and Archeology from the University of Ioannina and a Master Degree (DEA) in History of Art-Sorbonne I, Paris. Currently, she is a Candidat Doctor of Byzantine Archeology-University of Ioannina. She participated in the Byzantine excavation in the church of Pantanassa in Hepirus, Greece, the Gallo- roman excavation in the Lunell-Viel village, France and since 1991 she works at the Byzantine Museum of Athens (Responsible for the Museums Educational Programmes). She has been involved in the SOCRATES Project AEM (Adult Education and the Museum) in Ec and the ISTOS Educational Programme via Internet, organized by Lambrakis≥ Foundation. She has published in seven International Congress, and in scientific magazines relevant to Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art.