A resounding message on the need to protect our cultural heritage was sent during the event for the Greek World Heritage Monuments organised by the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and attended by His Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos, on Wednesday 17 April 2019, in the Amphitheatre of the Acropolis Museum.
In the context of the event, which was organised on the occasion of the World Day of Monuments and Sites, the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation presented a publication on the 18 Greek monuments included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
This is an initiative of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, realised in cooperation with publishing house Militos Editions. It further contains unique photographs of all the monuments captured by the gifted photographer Giannis Giannelos, and the texts are written by archaeologists of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. It was published under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Sports and the auspices of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO.
At the opening of the event, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis spoke about the importance of protecting our cultural heritage, which is our identity, underlining how critical it is to pass on this heritage to the next generations: “I believe there is no better way for someone to follow this unique historical path of the Greek nation than by following the monuments still standing through time, as living proof of the endless path of mankind, which tries to come emerge into the light through the values of culture and humanism. These monumental historical miracles are the images which represent our country on the global map of culture. The images that represent our Greece. I therefore saw it as my duty, primarily as a Greek and as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, to contribute, to the best of my abilities, to making this valuable history, as represented by the 18 monuments included in the UNESCO World Heritage Monuments list, available to all Greek men and women through a publication of our Foundation, which we are very excited to present here today.”
Mrs Vardinoyannis made special reference to the tragic event of the destruction of Notre Dame, announcing that the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation will organise a country-wide painting competition to raise awareness among youth of the need to protect World Heritage monuments. “The images making headlines these past few days, with this unique masterpiece on fire, brought the entire planet to tears, proving once again that the world’s cultural creations belong not only to their countries, but to humankind in general. And based on this event, I would like to announce that our Foundation, as a minimum token of its support for the French people, will organise a country-wide student painting competition on the subject of “People and their monuments,” aiming to raise youth awareness of the need to protect world heritage monuments everywhere in the world,” Mrs Vardinoyannis remarked.
After that, Mrs Vardinoyannis gifted the first copy of the World Heritage Monuments album to the President of the Hellenic Republic.
In his address, the President of the Hellenic Republic congratulated Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis on the initiative to publish an album of the Greek World Heritage Monuments and stressed that this publication is a symbolic contribution towards promoting and defending our civilisation and European civilisation, for which Greek civilisation is an irreplaceable buttress. In this context he noted that, among all ancient Greek monuments, constituting the core of our entire cultural heritage, the Parthenon holds a leading place, since it symbolises, in an unprecedented way, the starting point and cradle of Western civilisation in general, and specifically the starting point and cradle of both our intellectual origins and the institutional pillars of our Democracy. He then underlined the need for the immediate return of the Parthenon Marbles: “These sculptures rightfully and culturally belong to the Parthenon. Without the Sculptures, the Parthenon, deeply wounded by a sacrilegious act of vandalism, cannot convey to humankind its eternal and unique cultural message in full.”
The keynote speaker at the event was the Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis, who gave a lecture titled “Memory, monuments and cultural heritage.” During his lecture, Mr. Stampolidis spoke in detail about the value of memory and monuments: “Hesiod’s phrase ‘the thing that were, the things that are and the things that will be’ encapsulates the essence of historical knowledge. History safeguards the essence of life in words and works, preventing lethe, oblivion, thus reinforcing aletheia, i.e., the truth, the opposite of oblivion: What is remembered lives on and what is forgotten dies.” Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis then presented the album of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, noting that the 18 Greek monuments included in the UNESCO List “even if they appear to be too few, fully serve the purpose of underscoring the fact that our civilisation has a major difference from others: man has always been the measure of things”.
Others who delivered speeches at the event included the President of the Acropolis Museum, Professor Dimitrios Pantermalis, the National Coordinator for World Heritage Monuments, Mrs Konstantina Benisi, and Mr Kostas Katsigiannis, member of the BoD of the Hellenic ICOMOS.
As representatives of the younger generation, four High School and Lyceum students – Christodoulos Katsaros, student at the 9th General Lyceum of Athens, Marianthi Koskina of the 26th General Lyceum of Athens, Hara Moraitaki, Student of the High School of the Psychico College, and Alexis Politis, student of the High School of the Geitonas Schools, – sent their own message on the need to protect and respect world heritage monuments.
The event closed on a musical note, with an excerpt from “Erotokritos” by Vitsentzos Kornaros, in a modern setting by composer Dimitris Maramis. The composer accompanied the performance on the piano, the role of Erotokritos was interpreted by Mr Thodoris Voutsikakis, and the role of Aretousa was interpreted by Mrs Eleni Dimopoulou. It should be noted that the inclusion of “Erotokritos” on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is a standing request from Greece, and therefore, at the initiative of the Region of Crete and the Ministry of Culture, this year is dedicated to this masterpiece of Cretan literature, “Erotokritos”.
The event, which was moderated by journalist Nikos Hatzinikolaou, was graced by the presence of the wife of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mrs Sissy Pavlopoulou, the representative of the Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos, father Thomas Synodinos, US Ambassador Mr Geoffrey Pyatt with his wife Mary, and many other representatives of the country’s diplomatic and academic world.