CULTURE

Ex-royal grounds to be preserved

An entire world lies within the grounds of Tatoi, a sprawling plot of land located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of central Athens, whose features combine strikingly beautiful grand provincial architecture with the nature indigenous to Attica. A total of 35 buildings – all now included on the State’s cultural heritage preservation list following a decision by a Culture Ministry committee this week – are spread over this expanse of land linked to modern Greek history. Nowadays open to the public, the complex’s palaces were commissioned of the architect Savvas Boukis by Queen Olga. They were built between 1884 and 1886, while the entire complex, based on a similar complex in St Petersburg, was constructed between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. The grounds were designed as a self-sufficient community which included palaces, stables, a hotel, dormitories, a cemetery, lakes and bridges. The complex’s architectural and historic importance no doubt prompted the Cultural Ministry’s Central Council for Modern Monuments to vote unanimously in adding the complex to the State’s cultural heritage register. The issue was brought to the ministry’s attention following an extensive study conducted by Constantinos Stamatopoulos on behalf of the Hellenic Society. Stamatopoulos’s study, which took over five years to complete, will soon be published. Stamatopoulos underlined the complex nature and multidimensional importance of the former royal grounds. He also highlighted the plight of deteriorating buildings and other facilities on the grounds. There was an immediate need, Stamatopoulos noted in his study, to protect the premises from theft. Lax security measures, implemented last March, have not stopped looting of the grounds. Stolen items usually end up in Athenian antique shops. Moreover, the complex’s unkempt gardens are posing an increased fire hazard. Another important issue raised by Stamatopoulos is the deteriorating state of various items of inestimable value. An archive has been saved but interest in maintaining it has been insufficient. A library that belonged to King George I is rotting, as are other items. The Greek State is obliged to take measures. But, as was repeatedly noted during this week’s council meeting, a team of Finance Ministry officials must first evaluate the project’s cost before any initiatives are made.