Along with the thousand or more Alexandrian and
Greek guests, the ceremony was attended by the
President of the Democracy, Mr. Carolos Papoulias,
the Governor of Alexandria, Mr. Mohammed Mahgoub,
the President of the Foundation, Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou,
honorary Vice-Presidents, Mr. Pavlos Ioannidis
and Mr. Apostolos Zambelas, the secretary, Mr.
George Zambelas, members of the Board of Directors,
Mr. Stefanos Tampakis and Ms. Marianna Moschou,
representatives of Greek communities in Egypt,
prominent figures of the Greek political, academic
and business worlds, guests of the Foundation,
representatives of Egyptian authorities, journalists,
and many more.
|The Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros, presents the Grand Cross to honorary Foundation Vice-Presidents, Mr. Pavlos Ioannidis and Mr. Apostolos Zambelas, as well as to Foundation President, Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou.
Mass on that Sunday, which was historical
for the Greek population of Alexandria, was given
jointly by the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew,
and the Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II,
and was broadcasted live on Greek television.
"We consider that to the extent of our abilities, we did only that which
was our duty in accordance with the purpose promised to us by the unforgettable
Onassis", the President of the Foundation,
Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou, said in his speech.
"Today's congregation in the great city of Alexandria, of pastors of Greek
Orthodoxy, leaders of the celebrated Greece, a
host of diverse guests, and representatives of the official Egyptian state, demonstrates
exactly the reason for which our Foundation decided to undertake the restoration
of the resplendent church. The Metropolitan Church of the Palaephatus Patriarch
of Alexandria is one of the monuments symbolising the constant presence of Greeks
in Egypt. It marks the perpetual activity and blossoming of Hellenism outside
the strict geographical confines of Greece. Greeks have existed, exist and will
always exist in Greece and abroad, building an idyllic and transcendent Greece.
An ideal Greece, I would say.
|The pulpit and characteristic stained glass
"Finally, this church proclaims the transnational,
intercultural and universal importance of Hellenism
and Orthodoxy. Greeks in Egypt never felt like
foreigners. They have intermixed, cohabited and
suffered together with their friends, the people
of Egypt, dating back to ancient times.
"The Onassis Foundation has decided to concentrate its efforts on fewer,
yet important, projects. Everyone owes it to contribute
to the extent of their abilities. By the grace of God, perhaps we can do more.
"About five years ago, some people got together who shared a vision. Two
of those people are no longer with us. Memories
of one and the work of the other bring them here with us again. They meet transcendently
in this city.
"We have lost a lot of homeland that has turned to ruins and into memories
of people who themselves are starting to fade. Alexandria is alive. We see it
and it touches us; not only us Egyptians, but all Greeks. Today's opening and
the presence of all of us is proof that the city is still alive",
concluded Mr. Papadimitriou.
The ceremony was honoured by the presence of
the honorary President of the New Democracy party,
Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the Minister of Tourism,
Mrs. Fani Palli-Petralia, the Deputy Minister of
National Economy and Finance, Mr. Petros Doukas,
the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Thodoros
Kassimis, the Parliamentary Vice-President, Mr.
Georgıos Sourlas, and Members of Parliament, Mr.
Petros Efthimiou and Anna Diamantopoulou.
The church of Evangelismos was established in November
1847 on land endowed to the Community of Alexandria
by Michail Tositsas. Its construction by the architect,
Ermetes Pierroti, took nine years and its inauguration
took place in a festive manner on the day of the
Evangelism in 1856.
|The church narthex following its restoration
Its initial form was more severe than it is today
because the stone steeples were replaced between
1927 and1936 with more impressive cement structures,
and various decorative elements were added to the
front face. The church underwent maintenance in
the 1950s and murals and stained glass were added.
It is a triple aisled church with impressively
large dimensions, indicative of the blossoming
of Hellenism in Alexandria during the period that
it was being built. The main church is 48 metres
long and 22.7 metres wide. It is its interior,
however, that makes an impression with its monumental
grandeur and richness of its architectural and
decorative elements, which create a stately atmosphere
without being vociferous.
The Mediterranean light of Alexandria, which
penetrates the large windows, is sweetly tinted
by the multicoloured stained glass portraying the
Twelve Apostles. Based on Byzantine-style designs
by the Alexandrian artist of the Athens School
of Fine Arts, Mikis Matsakis, they were created
between 1950 and 1953 in Paris by the firm of Jean
Gaudin and cost 3,120 Egyptian pounds at the time.
Further murals picturing the Evangelism, the Genesis,
the Assumption, the Resurrection, and other scenes
from the life and passions of Christ were undertaken
by the same artist.
|The President of the Greek Democracy, Mr. Carolos Papoulias, and the Governor of Alexandria, Mr. Mohammed Maghoub, during the opening ceremony
Capturing the eye is the huge, marble temple,
which is decorated with five rows of smaller and
larger icons, as well as gilt-edged decorative
elements, meanderings, ornamental edge tiles, and
vine arbours. Golden stars shine against the blue
dome, forming the background for a mural of the
The now polished pews are named after each owner:
Angeliki Natziou, Styliani Viki, Eleni Christodoulou,
Eleni Evstratiadi … The number of Greeks in modern
Alexandria who continue to face the daily struggle
of survival in the now friendly megalopolis of
the country of the Nile, is clearly fewer and they
have greater faith in the future thanks to projects
like the restoration of their cathedral by the
Following the opening of the church of Evangelismos,
members of the Board of Directors and the Foundation's
guests attended the opening ceremony of the renovated
Patriarchal Manor, which is located next to the
church. At one time, the elegant, two storey building
with its prim garden housed the Tositsaia School,
providing a further example of the prosperity of
the Greek element in this city in older times.
During the renovation, part of Alexandria's ancient
water supply reservoir was discovered in the foundations
and can now be visited. In a show of gratitude
for his fervent support toward the Patriarchal
project, the Patriarch of Alexandria, Thodoros,
named one of the Manor's rooms after the unforgettable
The Renovation of the Antoniadis Villa
The Onassis Foundation's contribution to the promotion
of Greek culture does not stop at the gates of
the church of Evangelismos. The next important
step was signing a collaboration protocol between
the Foundation and the Library of Alexandria
on 2 April 2006 related to the renovation of
the historical Antoniadis Villa and the creation
of a Department for the Research of Hellenic
Alexandria within the context of the activities
of the Alexandria and Mediterranean Research
Centre of the Library of Alexandria. The protocol
was signed by Onassis Foundation President, Mr.
Antonis Papadimitriou, and the Director of the
Library, Mr. Ismael Serageldin, in a special
ceremony attended by the President of the Democracy,
Mr. Carolos Papoulias, the Governor of Alexandria,
Mr. Mohammed Mahgoub, the presiding board, members
of the Foundation's Board of Directors, and its
guests. The ceremony was honoured by the presence
of the Minister of Tourism, Ms. Fani Palli-Petralia,
the Deputy Minister of National Economy and Finance,
Mr. Petros Doukas, Members of Parliament, Mr.
Petros Efthimiou and Anna Diamantopoulou, and
|Foundation President, Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou, and Director of the Library of Alexandria, Mr. Ismael Serageldin, sign the collaboration protocol related to the Antoniadis Villa. Appearing from the left are Dr. Mohammed Agwad; the President of the Greek Democracy, Mr. Carolos Papoulias; the Governor of Alexandria, Mr. Mohammed Maghoub; Onassis Foundation BOD member and Vice-President of the Greek Egyptians’ Association , Mr. Stefanos Tamvakis; and honorary Onassis Foundation Vice-Presidents, Mr. Apostolos Zambelas and Mr. Pavlos Ioannidis.
According to the collaboration protocol, the
Onassis Foundation and the Library of Alexandria
will spend at least 250,000 US Dollars on the first
phase of activities related to renovating the building.
The Antoniadis Villa, recognised as one of the
city's historical monuments, is situated next to
the library in a lush, forty-eight hectare park
with botanical gardens, statues, a tropical greenhouse,
and ancient remains. Ioannis Antoniadis, who originated
from Limnos and serves as a classic example of
an Alexandrian cosmopolite, was a benefactor of
the Greek community and built the 2,859 sq.m. villa,
which became one of Alexandria's landmarks. His
descendent, Antonios Antoniadis, donated it to
the Municipality of the city, which used it to
host state leaders and other important visitors.
The building witnessed historical moments like
the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty in 1936
and the establishment of the Arab League in 1946.
After 1952, it started to go into decline as time
and careless repair attempts took their toll on
the impressive building. The renovation project
is expected to be completed in two years.
The Greek Element in Alexandria
The third stop on the five-day visit to Egypt by
Onassis Foundation representatives and guests was
the buildings of Alexandria's Greek community.
This constituted a moving "pilgrimage" for
all those returning to their familiar school classrooms
after many years. These impressive buildings cover
an area of 300,000 sq.m. and constitute a Greek
quarter in the centre of Alexandria, very close
to the statue of Alexander the Great mounted on
Some of the buildings constituting the Greek "Chadbi" quarter
are the Averoff Middle School, the old Salvagos
Trade School, the Julia Salvagou Theatre, the indoor
gym, the Benakeio Girls' Boarding School, the "Manna" Boys'
Boarding School, the stadium, which seats ten thousand
spectators, and other ancillary buildings. Today,
the spacious Averoff offices house the administrative
services of the Greek community, breathing a bit
of life into a place that was once bustling with
it. Nowadays, several tens of students continue
to study in the high-ceilinged, bright classrooms.
|The Antoniadis Villa and its gardens
The members of the Board of Directors and guests
of the Onassis Foundation also toured the small
National Museum of Alexandria, which is more cheerful
and charming. It is housed in a beautiful villa
in the centre of the city where findings from Egyptian
and Greek civilisations coexist. Mummies and statues
of Egyptian gods, findings from underwater studies
at the Pharos of Alexandria, Greek ceramics and
jewellery impressed the visitors.
The last stop on the five-day excursion was Cairo
with its cosmopolitan atmosphere and traditional
bazaars. The members of the Foundation's Board
of Directors were official guests at a large concert
organised by the Cairo Greek community at the Atrium
of the Pyramids. The mission also visited the Cairo
Acropolis, the Citadel, the mosque of Mohammed
Ali, the church of Saint George, and the city's
famous archaeological museum.
Highest Honours for the Board of Directors
Particularly moving was the moment following the
mass at the church of Evangelismos when the Patriarch
of Alexandria presented the Grand Cross of Saint
Mark to Foundation President, Mr. Antonis Papadimitriou,
and honorary Vice-Presidents, Mr. Pavlos Ioannidis
and Mr. Apostolos Zambelas. The President of the
Foundation was also presented with the Star, the
highest honour of the Patriarch of Alexandria,
which was intended for his father, Stelios Papadimitriou.
A few days later, the Patriarch Thodoros visited
the Onassis Foundation's offices in Athens and
presented the Grand Cross to Foundation Vice-President,
Mr. Yiannis Ioannidis, who was not present at the
opening ceremony in Alexandria, and Foundation
secretary, Mr. George Zambelas, who was responsible
on behalf of the Foundation for the church restoration