An invitation for expressions of interest in the YCAA’s five-day study tour.
This will be an unique opportunity to explore the current conservation issues in a city of ‘endless metamorphoses’, (Mazower 2005). Situated at the northern extremity of the Aegean Sea, and to the south of the Balkan states, Thessaloniki had been for seventeen-hundred years an Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine metropolis – until 1430AD. Then, with the collapse of the Roman Empire, it came under the rule of the Ottoman Turks until the First World War. Athens, on the other hand, had been promoting and celebrating its Hellenic past since Greek independence from Turkish rule in the 1830s. The result is an intriguingly different focus on heritage in Thessaloniki compared to Athens: the world Heritage site of Thessaloniki has no Hellenic remains, no Acropolis, but comprises an assemblage of Byzantine monuments which themselves have undergone metamorphoses from places of Pagan worship, to Christian churches to Mosques, but all provide evidence of artistic and cultural exchange with those two great cultural centres of Rome and Constantinople.
This is not just a city of endless metamorphoses, it is also a city of two halves, because in 1917, half of the city was destroyed by fire. This resulted in a displaced population of some 70,000 people, mainly Jews. This disaster was compounded in the 1920 by the enforced exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece: Muslims to Turkey; Christians to Greece, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. By 1924 111,000 Muslims had left Thessaloniki, and nearly 100,000 refugees had arrived, not just from Turkey but also from the Balkans following the First Balkans war of 1912 to 1914. Meanwhile, the ‘upper City’ of Thessaloniki had survived the fire, including its ancient street patterns, almost four miles of city walls, parts of which date from 315BC, and its Ottoman Fortress.
Rebuilding the city, based on proposals in the 1920s by a French architect Ernst Hébrard, was thwarted by delays in planning, lack of finances and, the outbreak of the Second World War and the traumas that ensued: in 1943 a fifth of the population was assigned to Auschwitz. The net result was that reconstruction wasn’t finally completed until the 1950s, by which time Thessaloniki was a thoroughly ‘modern’ Greek city.
But no city remains static, and Thessaloniki is now addressing a more recent problem of traffic and transport. An extension to the city’s Metro system is being constructed beneath its streets and this is revealing some fascinating glimpses into its ancient past, including the unearthing of the Decomanus Maximus, the Roman east-west boulevard that ran through Thessaloniki, lying beneath the street called Odos Egnatia (http://haemus.org.mk/works-unearth-second-pompeii/).
So there’s lots of fascinating heritage to explore and some intriguing conservation issues to think about – not least the conservation issues associated with the twentieth-century reconstruction of the city.
Expressions of interest:
The 5-day tour will likely be in the Spring 2018 (probably in late March) and outside of term-time to allow current students and alumni alike to participate.
If you’re interested in being part of this study tour, please register your expression of interest no later than 23 December 2017 using the following link or contact Jaanika Reinvalt, York Conservation Alumni Association Events Coordinator, directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mazower, M., (2005), Salonica, City of Ghosts, Harper Perennial, London. http://haemus.org.mk/works-unearth-second-pompeii/ [accessed 24 November 2017]