Cultural Postcards + Southern Europe

Heritage: The Erechtheion soon to open to visitors
The Erechtheion, famous for its iconic 'Porch of the Maidens' or 'Caryatids', which sits on the north side of the Athenian Acropolis, will soon be revamped with a new floor that will give visitors the opportunity to enter the temple.

The Erechtheion soon to open to visitors
Porch of the Caryatids on the south side of the Erechtheion 
[Credit: To Vima]

The new design is based on recommendations of the Acropolis Monuments Preservation division approved by the Central Archaeological Council. It involves installing 14-centimetre thick floor plaques over a removable metal construction to make the Erechtheion even more accessible to the public.

The Ionic style temple was constructed between 421 and 405 BC, probably by the architect Mnesicles, and replaced an earlier temple dedicated to the city's patron goddess, Athena.

Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the first century BC after its catastrophic burning by the Roman general Sulla, but was restored in the first century AD. The temple was altered decisively during the early Byzantine period, when it was transformed into a church dedicated to to the Virgin Mary. It was also used as a palace during the Frankish occupation (1204-1456) and later housed a harem during the Ottoman occupation.

The Erechtheion soon to open to visitors
Once the section of the Erechtheion's floor has been paved, it will allow visitors
 to enter the temple [Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]

In 1801 one of the caryatids and the north column of the east porch together with the overlying section of the entablature were removed by Lord Elgin in order to decorate his Scottish mansion, but were later sold to the British Museum (along with the pedimental and frieze sculpture taken from the Parthenon). During the Greek War of Independence the building was bombarded by the Ottomans and severely damaged.

Efforts to restore the temple from 1979 through to 1987 won Greece a conservation prize by Europa Nostra. In 1979, the five original Caryatids were moved to the Old Acropolis Museum and replaced in situ by exact replicas. The Caryatids have been transferred from the old Acropolis Museum to the New Acropolis Museum, where they have since been cleaned by laser and are currently on display.

The Acropolis Museum was awarded for its innovative program of the conservation and the restoration of the Caryatids by the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) in Vienna, with the Keck Award 2012.

Source: To Vima [October 09, 2014]

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