Byzantine and Christian Museum to get facelift, new parkland setting

In a bid to help improve the city’s image in time for the hordes of visitors expected to come to the Olympic Games, the Culture Ministry has undertaken a number of projects, including one approved last week by the Central Archaeological Council to renovate the eastern and western wings of the Byzantine and Christian Museum and to upgrade the surrounding 5 hectares. The ministry is aiming to have work completed by the summer, but this will mean a lot of hard and fast work, beginning at once. So if all goes well, the city block between Vassilissis Sofias and Vassileos Constantinou avenues and Rigillis Street will become unrecognizable. Apart from the existing main entrance on Vassilissis Sofias, there will be one more next to the Officers’ Club, another leading to a new garage and still one more on Vas. Constantinou for both pedestrians and service vehicles. The first thing a visitor entering the park from this side will see is a Byzantine kiln found at the Olympic Stadium, along with early Christian graves discovered in Petmeza Street. These will be covered by a 160-square-meter structure made of stone and timber. Also planned is an open-air sculpture exhibit with 120 sculptures. The park is to be crisscrossed by a network of paths and roads. Plans include a 400-square-meter parking area for just three coaches and three cars. An open-air amphitheater, built of stone and tiles, will have seating for 200 people, making use of a natural slope with a rise of 6 meters between the roof of the museum and its southern entrance. Special attention has been given to the landscaping and planting with the use of species traditionally found along the old route of the llissos River which used to run by the site. Park benches, pergolas, firefighting equipment, proper refuse bins and sign-posting will complete the image of a modern city park. A 50-seat state-of-the-art cafe is also planned, as is a gift shop, in the eastern wing of the museum. The project also includes raising, replacing and insulating the roof with hardwood and replacing the floors.