After more than 35 years of delays and red tape, the restored Athens Metropolitan Cathedral was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, even though it is still not ready to hold services during Easter.
The scaffolding and tarpaulins on its exterior, which for decades had almost become a defining feature of the capital’s most emblematic church, were finally removed. All that’s left now, church authorities said, is a good cleanup and the removal of scaffolding from its interior.
Restoration work on the church was conducted “to showcase its wealth of murals, marble work and sculptures,” said Thomas Synodinos, the church’s archpriest.
The restoration saga of the building, constructed in 1863, began after it sustained damage in an earthquake in 1981. A series of studies were commissioned shortly after but to no avail as work never actually got under way.
The cathedral, located on central Ermou Street, suffered even more serious damage in a big 1999 quake but repairs did not begin until over a decade later, in 2010. However, work was halted again for another year due to a lack of funds sparked by the financial crisis.
Despite the euphoria over the project’s completion, critics said the delays and obstacles implicit in the restoration of the church serve as a stark reminder of the woes linked to public building works in Greece.
Church authorities did not disclose when the restored cathedral will be officially launched.
The church – dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin – is the seat of the Bishop of Athens and is considered a famous city landmark.