NEWS

Aghios Constantinos project

Scaffolding is going up soon around the church of Aghios Constantinos and Eleni in Omonia Square so that the first phase of restoration work can begin. The church is one of the most important examples of neoclassical architecture in Athens. Its foundation stone was laid in 1871 and the building was completed in 1905 by Lyssandros Kaftanzoglou. The depredations of time and the earthquakes of 1981 and 1999 damaged the building severely, and some months ago the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided to take protective measures. Initial phase Nina Thomopoulou of the Ephorate of Byzantine and Post Byzantine Antiquities explains: The initial phase of the project has begun; scaffolding is going up to protect the church from pieces that are ready to fall – there are a lot of them, unfortunately – and to give the experts access to the upper part of the building where there is a lot of damage, deep cracks and problems in the dome. The scaffolding is not the usual type, but of a special heavy- duty construction. It will stay in place for the second phase of the work, the restoration, which will start a year later. And a sign will go up soon: ‘Immediate safety measures for the earthquake-damaged church of Aghios Constantinos and Eleni,’ although the public is already aware of the changes and the fence around the building. Numerous people visit it every day, and on Sundays, when foreigners visit, it attracts even more people. Although there was talk at KAS some months ago of closing the church, a solution was found whereby it could remain open and work could proceed, without endangering the congregation. The scaffolding has been designed in such a way that it does not prevent the church from being used, though it is not yet known whether the church will remain open during the second phase. The restoration project has a budget of 1.3 billion drachmas, which will come from the Public Investment program.