Exhibition opening on the Mosaic of Aegina in Greek island near Athens

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Exhibition opening on the Mosaic of Aegina in Greek island near AthensThe Mosaic belongs to an ancient synagogue of the 4th century CE. The event took place in cooperation with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Piraeus and the Islands of the Ministry of Culture and Sport and under the auspices of the Municipality of Aegina

The exhibition opening on the MOSAIC OF AEGINA - which belongs to an ancient synagogue of the 4th century CE - took place on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 at 8 pm at the Archaeological Museum of Aegina.

The event took place in cooperation with the Ephorate of Antiquities of Piraeus and the Islands of the Ministry of Culture and Sport and under the auspices of the Municipality of Aegina.

The event was attended by the Minister of Agricultural Development, Makis Voridis and his wife Danae Michelakou Voridis, Deputy Mayor of Aegina Nikos Economou, who saluted the event on behalf of Mayor Dimitris Mourtzis, Daniel Benardout representative of the Central Board for Jewish Communities of Greece on behalf of the president David Saltiel, Gabriel Negrin Chief Rabbi of Athens, and attended by an audience of 200 from Aegina and Athens.

Speakers at the event were Dr. Stella Chrysoulaki, Director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Piraeus and the Islands, the architect Dr. Elias Messinas who curated the exhibition and Yvette Nahmia-Messinas coordinator of the Friends of the Mosaic campaign.

The mosaic is a very important monument for Aegina. It not only an important mark to the story of the Jewish presence in Greece since antiquity, but it is also an important monument to the island of Aegina as well. Monuments contribute to attracting tourism and support the local economy. The exhibition aimed to present the monument to the general public and to highlight the need for preservation and protection. The exhibition will remain open until August 24 during museum hours.

In the 3rd century CE populations from Athens and Corinth – among them, the Jewish communities – fled to Aegina to avoid pirate raids inland. Circa 300-350 CE the Jewish community built a synagogue near the Hidden (Naval) Port near the location of Colona. The Jewish settlement was in the center of the ancient city of Aegina. The community was engaged in purple-dyeing and tanning. Apparently, it was prosperous enough to afford to collect donations to build a magnificent synagogue with a high-quality mosaic of geometric figures. The synagogue was in use until the 7th century CE, when the community fled to the more protected Paleochora with the rest of the island's population. There they will establish a new synagogue among the dozens of churches still standing in Paleochora. The location remains unknown. According to published sources, an inscription indicating the existence of a synagogue was found, but its traces have been lost. At this point, also the traces of the community are lost.

In 1829 the German archaeologist Ludwig Ross, the first professor of archeology at the University of Athens founded by King Otto, discovered the mosaic, which was still preserved almost intact near the naval port. The mosaic contained two inscriptions in Greek, referring to Theodoros the Archysynagogos who built the synagogue 'from its foundation'. The mosaic was studied by other archaeologists, and in 1928 the Israeli archaeologist Eleazar Lipo Sukenik came to Aegina to study the mosaic.

In 1932 the American archaeologist Belle Mazur, under the guidance of German archaeologist Franz Gabriel Welter, assistant at the Department of the German Archaeological Institute of Athens, continues the excavations revealing the apse on the eastern wall of the synagogue. The apse is a significant element of the synagogue. This is where the community would traditionally keep the Torah Scrolls, and where the elderly of the community would seat during services, as a sign of honor, as required by the laws for the use of the synagogue. In the 1960s with the reconstruction of Aegina, the mosaic was transferred to the courtyard of the Archaeological Museum, and Avra Hotel was built in its site.

Today, sixty years later, an initiative is underway to conserve and protect the mosaic, which has eroded over the years. The mosaic pieces (tesserae) have been detached and remain exposed to rain and resin from the pine trees around it.

More information can be found on the Mosaic of Aegina website or on the website of ECOWEEK (https://ecoweek.org/). 

The site includes a drone video showing the location of the mosaic.

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinationsGreek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

 

 

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