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Zalongo Monument: Site of Cultural Heritage Marks Sacrifice of Greek Women

Zalongo monument Greece cultural heritage site
The Zalongo Monument has been named a site of Modern Cultural Heritage in Greece. Credit: HaTe/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Zalongo Monument, located in Epirus, northwestern Greece, was named a site of Modern Cultural Heritage by the Ministry of Culture this month to celebrate the monument’s 60th anniversary.

Zalongo Monument now site of Modern Cultural Heritage

The monument, which was unveiled in 1961 was designed by George Zongolopoulos to commemorate the mass suicide of women and children which occurred in 1803, called the “Dance of Zalongo.” The moving monument took six years to construct, from 1954 to 1960.

The monument itself is 13 meters (42 feet) high, almost the same height as a five story building. The sculpture/monument has been hailed the as the sculptor’s greatest lifework and continues to be relevant to this day.

In order to build the project, Zongolopoulos needed to jump through multiple hoops and innovate ad hoc to overcome issues surrounding getting heavy concrete up to the 700 meter (2,296 foot) summit of Mount Zalongo.

The interior of the sculpture is made of concrete, while the outer shell was constructed using 4,300 off-white limestone blocks which were mined from a quarry 160 kilometers from the monument’s construction site. The materials were transported in larger pieces before being cut down to 50x25x20 cm blocks once they were at the site of the future monument.

At the beginning of the project, Zongolopoulos built a lift to transport materials up the mountain, but safety concerns meant that this mechanism was replaced by more old-school human — and animal — labor.

George Zongolopoulos Foundation campaigns for recognition

The George Zongolopoulos Foundation, established in 2004, works to preserve and represent Zongolopoulos’ famous sculptures. Top of the priority list when it was founded was to make sure that the Zalongo Monument, commemorating the heroic actions of the women of the city just prior to the War of Independence, was being preserved and cared for properly.

Over the course of three years, and with the assistance of the Municipality of Zalongos and the Epirus Regional Authority, funds were collected to help fund a restoration project, which was completed five years later by Angelos Moretis.

The newest move involving the recognizing the monument as a cultural heritage site in Greece was actually also engineered by the Foundation, which petitioned to have it listed in August of 2020.

“It is a vindication for this great Greek artist, as well as a recognition of the monument’s artistic merit,” announced the president of the George Zongolopoulos Foundation, Nicos Theodoridis, when he heard of the Ministry’s decision.

It is clear the breathtaking monument deserves this status, as despite its difficult position, 30,000 to 35,000 people visit it a year. The numbers of people who climb the  410-step footpath, designed by Patroklos Karantinos, to view the Monument shows the influence and beauty of the sculpture.

The current goal of the foundation is to get a cable car built up to the site of the Monument.

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