The Archaeological Museum of Elefsina, one of the oldest museums in Greece, has reopened to the public following the completion of maintenance and improvement works.
Built in the late 19th century, the museum is adjacent to the archaeological site and sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, where the famous Eleusinian Mysteries took place in ancient times.
As the modern city was recently declared 2023 Culture Capital of Europe, along with the cities of Timișoara in Romania and Veszprém-Balaton in Hungary, it became imperative that the local archaeological museum reopen to the public as early as possible.
The renovation works, which focused on improving the visitors’ experience, were partly funded by a half a million euro grant on behalf of the Pavlos and Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation.
Majestic ancient statues in Elefsina museum
The museum’s exhibits fall into two categories: the city of Elefsina, and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
They originate from excavations in the sanctuary and from the ancient cemeteries of the city, dating from prehistoric to late Roman times.
Most of them are statues, but there are also a few clay pottery artifacts on display.
The most prominent statues exhibited in the museum are a headless statue of the goddess Demeter, from the workshop of the sculptor Agorakritos; the “Fleeing Kore”, from the decoration of the “Sacred House;” and the huge statue of a cistophorus Kore, one of two Caryatids that supported the roof of the Lesser Propylaea.
In the ancient world, from the Mycenean period until 392 AD, Elefsina, or Eleusis, was known as the home of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece.
The festival represented the myth of the abduction of Persephone from her mother Demeter by the king of the underworld Hades, and the eventual reunion with her mother.
The rites, ceremonies, and beliefs of the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret and consistently preserved throughout antiquity.
The permanent exhibition at the Archaeological Museum of Elefsina both illustrates and recounts the founding myth of this mystic worship and its initiation ceremony, by juxtaposing original objects with the comments of ancient writers.
It also features finds related to the beginning of the worship, besides architectural and monumental fragments and offerings to the goddesses.