Colonial and National Framing of the Mediterranean City
Location: Thessaloniki and Rhodes. 9-day meeting, January 2020
This is the last of the three consecutive workshops engaging Advisors and workshop participants. Following the intensive workshops in Cyprus and Andalusia, we move to Greece and two key cities in different geographical and cultural regions: Thessaloniki in the southern Balkans and the island of Rhodes in the southeastern edge of the Aegean Sea. Building on themes developed during the previous meetings, this workshop’s focus will be the exploration of 20th century colonial and national ideologies and perspectives and how they have shaped the restoration, perception and eventual cultural experience of medieval art and architecture in the context of historic cities. We see this workshop as the key preparatory meeting for the possible second phase of the project, which will emphasize the results, impact and sustainability of our established scholarly network of art historians.
Concepts: artistic and architectural heritage framed by colonial urban planning, nationalist perspectives on art and architecture, reuse, re-claiming urban space through planning, how cultural, ethnic and national identities are represented in art.
Venue: The city of Thessaloniki will constitute the workshop’s venue, having the support of the city’s municipality and archaeological authorities. Seminar meetings will be hosted by the Archaeological Service, and as in our previous workshops, participants will be able to reach sites by foot or mini-bus.
Program: The workshop will convene in Thessaloniki on Day 1 to encounter the city via museums that have narrated history in different ways. These museums are the White Tower, whose recent installation represents the city’s history; the Archaeological Museum; and the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the latter ones featuring world-class collections of ancient and medieval art. Museum curators will meet with the group to explain their curatorial decisions regarding the representation and interpretation of history.
Day 2 will begin with a lecture by architectural historian Alexandra Yerolympos at the History Center of Thessaloniki. She will discuss the urban planning and development of Thessaloniki after the 1917 fire that devastated its historic center. In particular, she will discuss the role of Ernest Hébrard, the French planner who designed the plan for the modern city while carefully incorporating monuments from the city’s past. Thessaloniki was a major Ottoman port until 1912 when the Greek Army gained control of the city. In the aftermath of WWI and the 1917 fire, Hébrard was asked to redefine and reinvent the city’s urban identity, Thessaloniki now being integrated in the expanding Greek State. We will then visit two more museums which present less known and more politically sensitive aspects of the city’s cosmopolitan and diverse past: the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki which tells the history of the Jewish community whose presence was almost completely erased between 1912 and 1945, and the Atatürk Museum which is the house where the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk was born and raised.
Days 3 and 4 of the workshop in Thessaloniki will consist of site visits to Late Antique monuments such as the Rotunda, the basilica of St. Demetrius, the Virgin Acheiropoiitos, the impressive fortification walls, Byzantine churches such as the Hagia Sophia, the Panagia Chalkaion, the Holy Apostles and St. Catherine, the Heptapyrgion Fortress and Ottoman foundations like the Bey Hammam, the Yeni Camii, the Alatza Imaret and the Bezesten. Our visits to these monuments will be framed in the context of Hébrard’s urban planning choices and how their visibility has shaped the perception of heritage in the contemporary city. As we explore the city, we will also discuss the selective archaeological excavations led by the French urban planner in his efforts to establish the historical topography of Thessaloniki and build a narrative upon which he based his ambitious plan for the city. Finally, we will contrast Hébrard’s narrative with what actually happened in Thessaloniki during the volatile decades of the middle of the 20th century and the loss of the city’s cosmopolitan cultural plurality.
Concepts: colonial attitudes toward “local” arts, colonization and heritage, tourism and the representation of medieval heritage, and historic preservation and politics
Venue: In Rhodes we will be hosted by the Archaeological and Municipal authorities, making use of their beautiful seminar halls located in the restored medieval inns of the Knights. We will communicate with the Marc de Montalembert Foundation regarding the possibility of housing participants there.
Program: From Thessaloniki, it is a short flight to Rhodes at the end of Day 4 of the workshop. Our visit to the island and its capital city is particularly interesting as a follow-up to Thessaloniki because the city’s historic monuments offer another insight into how medieval architecture became the focus of colonial urban planning designed to formulate an iconic perception of cultural and civic identity. Between 1912 and 1943 when Italy controlled the island, Italian architects and engineers irreversibly shaped the perception of the city’s medieval character. Their primary goal was to use restoration projects to highlight medieval monuments linked with the period of Hospitaller control of the island (1309-1522), thus drawing ideological links between its medieval and contemporary colonization
Day 5 begins in the historic walled city (UNESCO 1988), looking at the major monuments: walls, the Hospital of the Knights, Castellania, Street of the Knights and the Inns of the various Tongues (nationalities) of the Knights, the church of our Lady of the Castle and the church of our Lady of the Burgh, and the Suleimaniye mosque. We will be joined by archaeologists, art historians and architects responsible for the city’s architectural preservation and protection. With their help we will be able to identify the choices behind the “selective” restoration projects of the Italians and also be introduced to the ways the Greek Archaeological Service has been dealing with these interventions that largely have shaped the experience of Rhodes’s medieval heritage.
Day 6 begins with discussion in the seminar room and shifts in the afternoon to the Grand Master’s palace, the interior of which was refurbished and renovated during the period of Italian control (1912-43) and later transformed into an archaeological museum.
On Day 7 we venture outside the medieval walls to visit the new part of the city, developed and designed by Italian architects to visually and ideologically engage the restored historic town. The building of the admiralty, theater, market and post-office are instructive examples of modernist design combining eclectic decorative details inspired from the city’s medieval and Ottoman past.
Days 8 and 9—the final days of the workshop—will be devoted to presentations by the participants who will explain how the over-arching Mediterranean Palimpsests project has been integrated into their research. This is envisioned as an event to which we will invite experts from the Rhodes Archaeological Service, such as the head restorer of the Archaeological Service in Rhodes, Dr. Katerina Manousou-Della, and the City’s Municipality. Presentations will stimulate a broader discussion of opportunities and future goals that will build on the heritage problems and practices encountered during the workshops.