Acropolis project restores Greece’s iconic monuments

The site of some of the world’s greatest cultural monuments, many of them dating from the 5th century BC, the Athenian Acropolis has been the scene of extensive restoration work since 1975. An EU-funded project continued these activities during 2010-2015, with work on six areas of the Parthenon, the Propylaea (monumental gateway), the Erechtheion temple, the Temple of Athena Nike and the circuit wall.

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A five-year-long EU-funded project has contined extensive restoration work on several parts of the Acropolis © Conservation and Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments A five-year-long EU-funded project has contined extensive restoration work on several parts of the Acropolis © Conservation and Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments

" The completion of the programme contributed to the enhancement of the natural and human-made environment and rendered the monuments intellectually accessible to the general public. "

Vasiliki Eleftheriou, director, Acropolis Restoration Service

Work on the Parthenon included dismantling, restoring and resetting of blocks on the western side; the restoration of beams in the rear porch, two blocks of the western gate lintel and blocks in the northern wall; and the carving of flutes into restored columns on the northern side and on the front porch.

Interventions in the Propylaea involved restoration of the upper south wall and north-west corner of the central building and the superstructure of the south wing. More than 50 ancient blocks which had been scattered around the area were put back in their original places.

On the Parthenon and Propylaea alone, 300 architectural elements weighing a total of 700 tonnes were treated.

Part of the south side of the circuit wall was consolidated, with a view to further interventions in other sections. At the Temple of Athena Nike, the crown of the tower was restored and the underground space improved. At the Erechtheion, the wall foundations were backfilled.

Other aspects of the project entailed surface conservation and compilation of an inventory of scattered fragments to determine from which monuments they had come.

Foundations of European civilisation

Receiving over 1.5 million visits a year, the Acropolis monuments are among the most important expressions of the values and accomplishments of Athenian democracy in the 5th century BC, which is a key element of the foundation of European civilisation.

The project aimed to reverse damage caused by natural phenomena such as earthquakes, or human actions such as fires, bombardments, or earlier restoration performed with substandard materials. Intervention areas were chosen based on the degree of wear.

Efforts were focused on removing inappropriate materials, mending fragmented blocks, resetting scattered fragments, rectifying deformations, transferring reliefs and sculptures to the Acropolis Museum and replacing them with casts, and removing deposits of black crust from surfaces.

Research and documentation

Research to develop new conservation methods and materials was undertaken in collaboration with academic institutions. Restoration work was systematically documented using the latest technology and over 87 000 documents were entered into a dedicated database. Photogrammetric surveys and digital scanning of architectural elements, including a 3D scan and model of the Temple of Athena Nike, were carried out.

Information was disseminated to academia and the general public through an international conference in 2013, at which restoration studies compiled under the project were presented, and four editions of an annual newsletter. Educational programmes enabled more than 15 000 pupils and 2 000 teachers to learn about the monuments and the restoration process.

At the end of 2015, scaffolding was removed from the monuments after many years, with the exception of the Parthenon, where work is continuing.

Total investment and EU funding 

Total investment for the project “Conservation and Restoration of the Acropolis Monuments” is EUR 7 387 062, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 7 387 062 through the “Attica” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Sustainable development and improving quality of life”.

Draft date