NEWS

Various worrying examples can be seen across the country

With few exceptions, the cemeteries of Greece undergo systematic ill-treatment. Athens First Cemetery, the resting place of so many eminent Greeks, full of monuments created by leading 19th-century sculptors, is the most emblematic. At Ermoupolis on Syros, the old cemetery is in a pitiful state. Statues that witnessed the island’s urban boom are dilapidated and broken. The cemetery belongs to the Municipality of Ermoupolis but all action is directed by the Culture Ministry’s First Ephorate of Modern Antiquities, based – naturally – in Athens. In Halkida, the refurbishment of the old cemetery, during which numerous graves were dug up, met with strenuous opposition from the local community. A representative at the Halkida Municipality told Kathimerini by telephone that the historic mausoleums and tombs listed for preservation «not only were not touched but will be restored, and all the work was monitored by the Culture Ministry, which made an on-site inspection.» All cities have significant cemeteries, especially those in the parts of Greece where neoclassical architecture was widespread. Patras has its own marvelous First Cemetery, designed in the renowned Italian style and with exceptional monuments. It inspired a study by historian and archaeologist Iota Kaika-Mantanika: «I astiki taxi sti geitonia ton angelon. Patra: A Nekrotafeio 1880-1920 (The Middle Class in the Angels’ Neighborhood. Patras: 1st Cemetery 1880-1920), published by Yiannis Pikramenos in 2004. The aesthetics of historic cemeteries, which is a subject of scholarly research and tourism, has been neglected in Greece and is probably misunderstood.