LIFE

Delays put restoration of Mylos catacombs in danger

GIORGOS LIALIOS

One of Greece's major Early Christian monuments has been abandoned. The restoration of the catacombs on the island of Mylos has been postponed for the second time, which means that the EU funding previously secured may now be lost. The reasons behind the continuous cancellations are not known. The catacombs are situated in the southern part of the island, near the village of Trypiti. They date to the 2nd century and were used during the Early Christian period. They contain about 300 sculpted graves, housed in three large galleries which develop into six 184-meter corridors. They were first explored by scientists at the end of the 19th century. After a lengthy struggle, the restoration was put under a 650,000-euro funding program by the Ministry of Culture. «The first tender, held in December 2005, was declared null and void, while the second, on May 8, 2006, was canceled because it should have had the approval of the Ministry of the Environment and Town Planning,» said Antonis Drougas, president of the Panhellenic Association of the Mylos Catacombs. «This delay is endangering the actual restoration work, because time is now running out.» The work must be completed by the end of 2007. The restoration, which will make the catacombs accessible to the public, will not only protect the monument but will also contribute to the island's tourist development. The Association of the Friends of the Catacombs had to repeat what should be taken for granted: «The catacombs in Mylos are among the most important in the world, along with those in Rome and the Holy Land,» said Drougas. «Their protection is a huge issue for Greece and it is unacceptable that it should be endangered for bureaucratic reasons.»

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