Byzantine and Christian Museum :: Friends of BCM .::. Diaries .::. 2013


Garden & Paradise. Metaphor and Reality. Athens 2013

The choice of subject-matter for this years diary stems directly from the proposals submitted for the remodelling of the Museum grounds. As it does every year, however, the 2013 diary will also constitute a mini museum in its own right, granting insights into and shedding light on the Museums collections. Perusing the artefacts presented within its covers, the reader can embark on their own search for paradise...

Now that the exhibition of the Museums permanent collections is complete and the Duchess of Plaisances mansion has been inaugurated as a new exhibition space, the Byzantine and Christian Museum can address another pressing obligation: the remodelling of its grounds and their opening to the public. The Museum grounds cover some 2,000 square metres, and the museological approach informing their remodelling would have to be compatible with the nature, mission and aims of our historical museum, which is celebrating its centenary in 2013. Accordingly, we set out to offer our visitors the experience of a multi-functional open air park in the heart of Athens as part of their visit.

We looked to the Byzantine perception of nature, gardens, springs and the landscape to provide the starting point for our study. The lyrical descriptions of the natural landscape included in Byzantine ekphraseis and rhetoric provided valuable literary insights into the concept of a garden as paradise/Eden and into its multiple symbolisms: the walled garden, the tree of life, the gushing fountain as a source of life and wisdom. And while such descriptions may be overly flowery and excessive on occasions, they nonetheless reflect the enduring Byzantine interest in the natural landscape. In turn, the paradisal landscapes depicted in Byzantine art, primarily in mosaics and illuminated manuscripts, afforded us a valuable archaeological account of the walled imperial and monastic gardens of the Byzantine era. A number of obvious analogies can be drawn between gardens and paradise: the Byzantines certainly identified their recreational gardens, which were often sited beside rivers, with paradise, and this duality of meaningthe Greek word denoting Paradise, but also Heaven, Eden and thence gardenexplains how the garden came to occupy a central place in numerous symbolisms central to the Byzantine worldview.

Anastasia Lazaridou

Elena Papastavrou

Jasmin Moysidou

Michael Eleftheriou Jasmin Moysidou

Andronikos Chatzikostis, Charis Psychopaidi

Yannis Stavrinos

Giorgos Soupios

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