2012 World Monuments Watch
Established in the 1830s, shortly after the founding of the modern Greek state, the First Cemetery of Athens is the final resting place for many prominent figures in Greek public life, including statesmen, artists, writers, and philanthropists. In addition to serving the Greek Orthodox population of Athens, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish burials also took place in the First Cemetery. Its collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century funerary monuments contains excellent examples of Neoclassical sculpture, from tombstones and stelae to statues and mausoleums. Many were inspired by monuments found in the city’s ancient burial ground, which was also discovered in the nineteenth century. Many of the marble monuments now face structural problems and are in need of careful study, documentation, and conservation. The long-term stewardship of the First Cemetery of Athens echoes challenges faced by historic urban cemeteries around the world, and presents new opportunities for reintegrating these places of burial within the city context, as both vital open space and dynamic cultural resources. The municipality of Athens recognizes the value of this historic cemetery as a modern cultural heritage site, but even with this vision, regular maintenance and conservation are necessary tools to realize this goal.