THESSALONIKI – They have always been a part of a maritime nation’s history and architecture, identified with the most inaccessible coastlines and complete isolation, and sometimes viewed with nostalgia and romanticism. Lighthouses are part and parcel of the history of shipping as well as of Greece’s cultural heritage. A survey by Thessaloniki University’s building materials laboratory has highlighted aspects of that tradition, from the first fires that were lit to show ships the way around the most dangerous capes on historic European sea routes and, later, their transformation into signposts for shipping from the 17th century right up until the establishment of the lighthouse network. In Greek waters, lighthouses have dotted the Aegean archipelago and Crete since 1650. The first to be built under the modern Greek state was at the entrance to the port of Aegina in 1829, when Ioannis Capodistrias declared Aegina the capital of the Greek state. In 1887, the Lighthouse Service was established. Today about 1,399 of them are dotted around the country’s 15,000-kilometer coastline. Most of them are now automatically illuminated, but 57 are still monitored by lighthouse keepers. Of the 116 that are stone structures, 25 have been listed by the Culture Ministry. A European Union program titled «EC Pharos: Holistic Strategy for the Preservation, Restoration and Integration in the Life of Modern Societies of Old European Masonry Lighthouses (2004-2007)» included case studies by four European member states of a lighthouse in each of their countries – the Utsira lighthouse in Norway, Happisburgh in Britain, Cervia and Rimini in Italy and Paphos in Cyprus. Thessaloniki University studied the Megalo Emvolo lighthouse at Angelohori, Thessaloniki. «This survey produced a wealth of valuable material on the lighthouses, the part they have played in shipping, the problems faced today and the potential for developing them as monuments of cultural heritage within the current environment, without losing sight of their symbolic value,» said Professor Ioanna Papayianni, head of the laboratory and coordinator of the project. Part of that material is included in an exhibition titled «Masonry Lighthouses: From Yesterday to Today» at Thessaloniki harbor’s Warehouse 3. The exhibition looks at historic lighthouses, their development through history, various types of structures, lighthouse systems, tales told by lighthouse keepers and efforts to preserve these buildings.