AUTH and Italian Team Rush to Save Historic Greek Cemetery in Livorno

(Photo by ANA)

A team of architects and civil engineers of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and the Supervisory Committee of the Institute of Venice which is appointed by the Foreign Ministry are racing against time and under extreme weather conditions to preserve and protect the historic Greek cemetery and church of Livorno, in the Italian region of Tuscany.

The members of the delegation will work with the Italian authorities to construct a special roof over the church at the old Greek cemetery of Livorno in order to protect the monument, which faces the risk of collapse. A University of Thessaloniki team surveying the site earlier in October has found that part of the church’s roof has already fallen down from the weight of collected rainwater.

“The church and the family tombs, where very important historical figures of the Greek revolution have been laid to rest, have been abandoned to the ravages of time for decades and protection measures should be assumed immediately,” the members of the University’s team told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).

The cemetery of Livorno contains the tombs of the Mavrokordatos, Rodokanakis and other noted families of the Greek diaspora and belongs to the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Institute of Venice, under the Greece-Italy agreement signed in 1951. The agreement regulated issues of jurisdiction over the assets of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine studies, which assumed ownership of the assets of the historic Greek Orthodox Community of Venice. The Hellenic Institute is operating as legal entity regulated by public law and is the only such entity located outside Greek territory.

The remnants and graves from another Greek cemetery operating before the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Rule in 1821 were sent to Livorno cemetery that was built in 1840. The first community of Greeks in Livorno was recorded before 1562 and was of the most important Greek community with huge contribution to the revolution. Rich and educated merchants supported the revolution with material, money and human resources while their ships transferred volunteers and philhellenes as Lord Byron, to fight with the revolutionaries.

Italian authorities have long notified the Greek authorities of accelerating preservation and restoration work on the church and tombs, most of which are of marble and some of which include intricate sculptural additions.

“This particular cemetery was built in 1840,” professor of Architecture and Archaeology Giorgos Karadedos, told ANA, “and tombs and remains of another cemetery, which operated before the Greek Revolution in 1821, were transferred here. The first community of Greeks in Livorno is as old as 1562, according to records. The old Greek church of Agia Triada, built in 1757 in Livorno, contained several outstanding icons placed in storage by the Italian authorities and may be placed back in the church again as soon as the cemetery church is restored and secure.”

Livorno’s Greek community played a key role in the Greek Revolution, through funds provided by its wealthy merchants. Members used their ships to transport volunteer fighters and philhellenes like Lord byron to Greece to fight for liberation from the Ottoman rule, and provided scholarships to Greek children for medical or fine arts studies. The port city’s Greek community also funded book publications and was the second home of poet Andreas Kalvos.

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