Scientists rush to save Greek cemetery and church in Italy



A team of architects and civil engineers from Greece and Italy are racing against time and under extreme weather conditions to preserve and protect the historic Greek cemetery and church of Livorno, in the Italian region of Tuscany.

The team from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and the Supervisory Committee of the Institute of Venice which is appointed by the Foreign Ministry will work with the Italian authorities to construct a special roof over the church at the old Greek cemetery of Livorno in order to protect the monument, which faces the risk of collapse.

The team from the University of Thessaloniki are surveying the site earlier in October has found that part of the church's roof has already fallen down from the weight of collected rainwater.

"The church and the family tombs, where very important historical figures of the Greek revolution have been laid to rest, have been abandoned to the ravages of time for decades and protection measures should be assumed immediately," the members of the University's team told Greek news agency ANA.

The cemetery of Livorno contains the tombs of the Mavrokordatos, Rodokanakis and other noted families of the Greek diaspora and belongs to the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Institute of Venice, under the Greece-Italy agreement signed in 1951. The agreement regulated issues of jurisdiction over the assets of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine studies, which assumed ownership of the assets of the historic Greek Orthodox Community of Venice. The Hellenic Institute is operating as legal entity regulated by public law and is the only such entity located outside Greek territory.

Italian authorities have long notified the Greek authorities of accelerating preservation and restoration work on the church and tombs, most of which are of marble and some of which include intricate sculptural additions.

Livorno's Greek community played a key role in the Greek Revolution, through funds provided by its wealthy merchants. Members used their ships to transport volunteer fighters and philhellenes like Lord Byron to Greece to fight for liberation from the Ottoman rule, and provided scholarships to Greek children for medical or fine arts studies. The port city's Greek community also funded book publications and was the second home of poet Andreas Kalvos.