The Monument of Episkopi, a Roman mausoleum converted to a Byzantine church on the island of Sikinos, Greece, was among the winners of the 2022 European Heritage Awards, as it was announced on Thursday by the European Commission and Europa Nostra.
Episkopi’s monument was built in the 3rd century AD and later converted to a Byzantine church and used continuously.
The ancient monument survived through the Middle Ages and in modern times, with all the additions preserved nearly intact.
After surviving destructive earthquakes and interventions, the monument was abandoned in the 20th century.
The Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cycladic Islands decided to restore it in 2016 and return it to public use.
Intact grave of a rich woman unearthed on Sikinos’ monument
In 2018, during restoration efforts, the hermetically sealed and intact grave of a higher-status woman named “Neiko” was unearthed.
“The wealth of jewelry worn by the woman betrays that she was a prominent figure in Sikinos society,” the Culture Ministry said in an announcement on the discovery.
Archaeologists found “golden wristbands, rings, a necklace, a buckle with embossed chamomile, along with glass and metal vases, as well as fragments of the costume of the dead.”
The restoration project also revealed valuable inscriptions and frescoes from the Roman and Byzantine eras. It “combined meticulous research with cautious conservation, resulting in a high-quality restoration project,” the award citation said.
“This project combined meticulous research with cautious conservation, resulting in a high-quality restoration,” it was said. “The monument of Episkopi is a cultural landmark and a source of pride for this small island community.”
“Building materials were reused as much as possible and new masonry was incorporated using locally collected stones,” said the award jury. “The combination of architectural elements of a Roman mausoleum in a Byzantine church forms a unique monument that is simply striking.”
The community of Sikinos supported the project and is planning to celebrate the Dormition of the Virgin on August 15th.
Sikinos (ancient Oinoe or Oenoe) is one of the smaller islands of Greece, located in the southern part of the archipelago between Ios and Folegandros. It has a population of 273. The southern side has gentle terrain while the north-west has a steep cliff of 280 meters (918 feet) in height atop of which the town was built.
Archaeological remains found on the island show that it has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Its first inhabitants arrived on the island in the Mycenaean period, later being populated by the Ionians.
The European Heritage Awards were given to thirty winners from eighteen countries in five categories and will be celebrated at the European Heritage Awards Ceremony in Prague on September 26th.
The Sikinos monument was recognized in the “Conservation and Adaptive Reuse” category.