CULTURE

Saving Aghios Andreas, Greece’s sole neo-gothic Orthodox church

Well-known architect Ernst Ziller’s abandoned buildings on the Syngrou estate, on the borders of the municipalities of Maroussi and Kifissia, remain unknown to the wider public. Three times larger than the Pedion tou Areos park, the Syngrou estate is one of the largest areas in Athens which have not been built up. It is a wonderful park, ideal for walks, and must be preserved with great care. Very close to Kifissias Avenue, one can see Ziller’s buildings, the Syngrou mansion (the entire estate is the legacy of state benefactor Andreas Syngros) and Aghios Andreas, a small church designed in neo-gothic style, which is currently under state protection according to a law passed in 1990. All the buildings are in a bad condition, especially the church, which has been thoroughly pillaged. Practically anyone can get inside the church and witness the degree of abandonment and abuse. Only parts of its former wooden lining remain, and there are obvious signs of arson. The Friends of Syngrou Park have taken some steps toward the restoration of Aghios Andreas and have sent a proposal to the Institute of Agricultural Sciences, which is in charge of the estate. The Ministry of Culture’s Directorate for the Restoration of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments has apparently completed a study since 1990, but according to the legacies law only the institute can intervene. The Friends of Syngrou Park claim that, despite that commitment, the Municipality of Maroussi received 20 million drachmas (58,694 euros) from the Ministry of Culture in 1996 to conduct repairs in Aghios Andreas, yet the sum was never used for that purpose. On the other hand, the Ministry of Agriculture, which the Institute of Agricultural Sciences has to answer to, has agreed to contribute 1.6 million euros for the Syngrou estate. Part of that sum could be used for the restoration of the small church, which, it should be noted, is the only Orthodox church built in that style. The Friends are asking the institute to move deftly between the Municipality of Maroussi, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Culture (to update the 1990 study), in order to save the monument before its collapse.