Philippi hop­ing for UNESCO list­ing

Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site wait­ing to hear if it will make World Her­itage ros­ter later this month

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY IOTTA SYKKA

Still lick­ing its wounds af­ter last week’s air­port at­tack, Istanbul will this month host the 40th ses­sion of the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee at the city’s Congress Cen­ter from July 10 to 20. Among the is­sues on the agenda of the 10-day meet­ing is Greece’s re­quest for the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site of Philippi, in north­ern Greece, to be listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage site.

On the side­lines of the sum­mit, the Greek Con­sulate is sup­port­ing a re­lated photo ex­hi­bi­tion at the Sis­man­oglio Me­garo, in the same city. The ex­hi­bi­tion, which will be launched on July 18 un­der the ti­tle “Philippi: A Cen­tury of Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Dis­cov­er­ies,” is or­ga­nized by the Ephor­ate of An­tiq­ui­ties of Kavala-Tha­sos and the French School of Ar­chae­ol­ogy in Athens. The ex­hi­bi­tion, which first went on dis­play in Thes­sa­loniki two years ago, aims to show­case the mul­ti­fac­eted re­search on the site, the team be­hind the dig, the sig­nif­i­cance of the ar­ti­facts un­earthed by ar­chae­ol­o­gists, and the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tions.

The bid to in­clude Philippi on the list of World Her­itage mon­u­ments is backed by the Re­gional Au­thor­ity of East­ern Mace­do­nia and Thrace, the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Kavala, the lo­cal arch­bish­opric, and the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Mean­while, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is or­ga­niz­ing a tourism cam­paign for the re­gion.

There is nev­er­the­less a feel­ing of dis­may on the Greek side fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion by Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties which al­lowed a daily read­ing from the Qu­ran to be broad­cast from Ha­gia Sophia dur­ing the holy Mus­lim month of Ra­madan.

17 mon­u­ments

Greece has been a sig­na­tory to the Con­ven­tion Con­cern­ing the Pro­tec­tion of the World Cul­tural and Nat­u­ral Her­itage since 1981. A to­tal 17 mon­u­ments from the pre­his­toric, Clas­si­cal, Byzan­tine and post-Byzan­tine pe­riod have since been in­cluded on the list. An­other 15 sites are on the ten­ta­tive list. The first Greek en­try was the Tem­ple of Apollo Epi­curius at Bas­sae. The Old Town of Corfu, one of the main at­trac­tions of the Io­nian is­land, was the last Greek site to be listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage site in 2007.

“Of­fi­cials at the Cul­ture Min­istry, with help from the Kavala Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, have car­ried out ex­tremely im­por­tant work. We have suc­cess­fully com­pleted a de­mand­ing eval­u­a­tion process, we have a pos­i­tive rec­om­men­da­tion by the com­pe­tent ad­vi­sory body and we are look­ing for­ward to a pos­i­tive re­sult for the site as well as the coun­try,” said Dr Eu­ge­nia Ger­ousi, head of the Direc­torate of Byzan­tine and PostByzan­tine An­tiq­ui­ties at the min­istry.

“The nom­i­na­tion of Philippi, al­ready on Greece’s ten­ta­tive list since 2003, is the first nom­i­na­tion in many years and, what is more, it com­plies with the new – and much stricter – op­er­a­tional guide­lines im­posed by the in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Ger­ousi said.

What does it mean to be on UNESCO’s list?

“Af­ter a mon­u­ment is in­cluded on the list, it gains in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion,” says Stavroula Dadaki, head of the Ephor­ate of An­tiq­ui­ties in Kavala. This means more visi­tors and need for bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture.

“There is an on­go­ing ef­fort to in­clude works that will up­grade the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site (such as en­trances, foot­paths, guard booths, toi­lets and so on). Be­ing on the list does not just mean glory and glam­our; it also means ex­tra obli­ga­tions,” Dadaki said.

The ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site of Philippi is a mag­net for visi­tors to north­ern Greece. The site is the lo­ca­tion of the old­est Ne­olithic set­tle­ment in East­ern Mace­do­nia and Thrace, and one of the largest in the Balkans. Saint Paul founded the first Chris­tian Church on Euro­pean soil at Philippi in AD 49/50.

Dat­ing back to 1957, the fes­ti­val at the an­cient the­ater of Philippi is Greece’s se­cond old­est fes­ti­val af­ter that at Ep­i­dau­rus. A “vir­tual trial” com­pe­ti­tion in­volv­ing univer­sity stu­dents from eight in­sti­tu­tions is held at the Fo­rum ev­ery spring.

The site is the lo­ca­tion of the old­est Ne­olithic set­tle­ment in East­ern Mace­do­nia and Thrace, and one of the largest in the Balkans.

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