Athens' Parthenon scaffold-free for first time in years

Thu May 27, 2010 4:45pm EDT
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By Jon Hemming

ATHENS (Reuters Life!) - Visitors to Athens have a rare window of opportunity to see the showpiece Parthenon temple on the ancient Acropolis without scaffolding for the first time in nearly 30 years as a major restoration work nears completion.

The Greek government launched a project to restore the Parthenon and other buildings on the world heritage site in 1975, but it was not until 1983 that work started.

Scaffolding has been up somewhere around the ancient temple ever since. But from now until September, the exterior of the Parthenon will be scaffold-free.

Building the Parthenon took nine years from 447 BC and the sculptural decorations took another 10 years to complete. Restoration has already taken longer than it took to build.

"We treat every piece of marble like a piece of art so we have to respect it," Mary Ioannidou, the head of restoration told Reuters during a tour of the temple.

"The ancient Greeks had the possibility that if a block failed, to leave it and take another one, but we can't do it so we have to treat it with great respect."

Over the years, the Parthenon has suffered from fire, war, revolution, looting, misguided restoration and pollution.

It became a church for nearly 1,000 years and served as a mosque under the Ottomans for nearly 400 years after that.   Continued...

<p>Tourists walk past the Parthenon on Acropolis hill in Athens May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol</p>