A new decision issued by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) favors the in situ preservation of the antiquities found two years ago at the heart of Thessaloniki, during construction works of the “Venizelos” subway station. The issue has since then caused a lot of controversy not only within KAS, but also in the local and academic community. The Municipality of Thessaloniki has recently referred back to the Council submitting a proposal about a) the in situ preservation of the antiquities, and b) their enhancement in what the city’s mayor called an “archaeological plaza”.
The Central Archaeological Council has approved the proposal concerning the in situ preservation of the antiquities, for reasons of public interest, i.e. the preservation and protection of the authenticity of this unique monumental complex. Another reason mentioned is that the monument is facing serious risks because a lot of time has past since its excavation.
However, KAS has rejected the proposal about the enhancement of the monument on the ground of lacking documentation and asked the Municipality to conduct a complete architectural proposal in collaboration with the relevant services of the Cultural Ministry and the Attiko Metro.
Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, who was present at the meeting, explained the concept of the proposal, which, as he said, will allow the creation of an archaeological “plaza”, which will enhance the antiquities of the city in the heart of the citizens’ everyday life. According to the proposal, presented by professor Alexandra Alexopoulou (School of Architecture – Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), the archaeological site which comprises significant monuments, like the Byzantine Mese Odos, will be “open” to the public, and at the same time underground, beneath the Egnatia street. It will be easily accessible by the openings of the Kapnergati and Alkazar squares, which will descend gradually three metres underneath the road and will be connected by a bridge, built three metres above the antiquities. Furthermore, a big perimeter corridor will give visitors the opportunity to have a full view of the monuments, while from the same spot they will be able to descend and have a closer look at the antiquities.
According to Mr. Boutaris, the proposal does not prevent a future construction of the subway station, as the necessary shafts will be built regardless. “The freeing of the place and the construction of an archaeological plaza do not affect the metro at all. That is why it must be disconnected from it and not be a part of it any longer. We do not object to the construction of the station, although the two stations – Venizelos and Aghia Sofia – are only 370m from one another, which is less than a bus station” he stressed.
Another point underlined at the meeting was that the antiquities must be protected, as they remain at the mercy of humidity and rainfalls, due to the delays, while until now no proposal of detaching the antiquities from the Attiko Metro has been submitted – as asked for by the former Ministerial Decision.
It should be reminded that according to the previous opinion of the Central Archaeological Council of December 2014, the antiquities were to be preserved in situ, as these are unique finds and examples of a Byzantine city planning, not to be found anywhere else in the world.