After a “marathon” formal discussion that lasted more than 10 hours and which was accompanied by moments of intense debate as well as of valuable opinion exchange, the Central Archaeological Council of Greece (known as KAS) agreed on detaching and repositioning the Venizelou Station antiquities as a whole group in the same spot, which is to be formed as an archaeological site open to visitors.
In particular, during the discussion, six possible site plans were presented regarding the enhancement of the important Byzantine monuments which were found during the construction of the station, which will form part of the Thessaloniki Metro railway.
Reviewing these plans, both the spokespeople for the Directorates in charge, as well as the KAS marginal majority favoured the combination of two of them -designed by the Archaeological Service and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) respectively-, which share common ground on supporting the antiquities’ preservation as a single unit to the fullest extent. Apart from the six plans, the KAS members also considered the possibilities of re-inspecting the site and of seeking for a second opinion by experts regarding the possibility to retain the antiquities in situ. However, these two possibilities were ruled out.
The meeting was also attended by Thessaloniki’s Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who argued for the preservation of antiquities at the station , while expressing his own vision regarding the site: the creation of an archaeological park in the city center, with pedestrian and renovations, where the monuments found in the station will form part of a greater group of monuments such as the Bezesteni, the Alcazar, the Dioikiterion Square, Aghios Dimitrios, the church of Acheiropoietos and Panaghia Chalkeon.
From the side of Attiko Metro, the railway’s main construction company, it became clear that the project has “reached point red”, due to the current situation of continuous delays, and it was proposed that the antiquities should co-exist with the functional part of the station in a percentage of 85%, and that escalators and glass flooring should be added. The proposal was not accepted.
Despoina Koutsoumpa, President of the Society of Greek Archaeologists (the Greek state archaeologists union), who also attended the meeting, spoke among other subjects, for an open archaeological site, accessible to everyone and not only the Metro’s passengers, as well as for the need to form a interdisciplinary experts’ committee in order to carefully study the proposed plans, one by one.
During the meeting, there was a long conversation regarding the situation as it was formed durning the past years and since the last KAS meeting, with certain members talking about Attiko Metro’s unreliability on not presenting reality the way it was, from the beginning, and some others asking for a second opinion by experts.
From her side, the Ministry of Culture and Sport Secretary General Lina Mendoni spoke on the way the topic was abused on a political and a personal level, as well as for the need to avoid any further delays which could put the project’s materialization at stake.