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World’s Oldest Greek School Celebrates 220 Years in Vienna

The Greek National School in Vienna, the oldest still-functioning Greek school in the world, has celebrated 220 years since its opening. Credit: GreekReporter / Alexander Billinis

The Greek National School in Vienna, the oldest still-functioning Greek school in the world, has celebrated 220 years since its opening.

The school – founded in 1804 – was awarded the ‘Simonos Sina’ award by the Academy of Athens in December 21st, 2023 for its “historic and symbolic value as the oldest active Greek educational institution in the world, as well as for being an important institution which promotes Greek culture, language and education, promoting Greek culture internationally and strengthening the historical and cultural ties between Greece and Austria.”

The Greek National School of Vienna’s Founding

The founding of the Greek National School of Vienna is linked to the story of the Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire, who, after the siege by the Turks and following peace treaties of Karlovic, Pasarovic and Belgrade, saw the city as an attractive place for the creation of a commercial center.

These Ottoman Empire Greeks also saw Vienna as a beacon for the flourishing of Hellenism which had grown in the lands of Central Europe.

Having managed to secure the necessary imperial privileges, the Greeks split themselves into two Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical communities – Agios Georgios, whose members were subjects of the Ottoman Empire, and the Holy Trinity, whose followers were Greek and Vlach Imperial Austrian nationals.

From the middle of the 18th century, these two communities showed themselves to be important torchbearers for the Neo-Hellenic enlightenment and the renaissance of wider Hellenism.

The movements had the goal of enlightening the enslaved Greeks, so that they could free themselves from the Ottomans. This came to fruition with the printing, publishing and circulation of various books and newspapers. The first Greek newspaper in history was published in Vienna.

With the backdrop of these intellectual pursuits for the development and strengthening of Greek education, the Greek merchants of Vienna hired educated teachers to home-school their children in Greek language, as well as reading, writing, maths and religion.

This wellspring of education led to a decision by the assembly of the Community of the Holy Trinity, in March 1801, to establish a Greek school, which would be financially supported by donations from the wealthy Greek families of Vienna.

An official imperial decree given on May 19, 1804, by Emperor Francis I of Austria-Hungary, gave imperial privileges for the founding, organisation and operation of the Greek National School of Vienna. The school would be housed on the second floor of the building of the Holy Trinity, with well-lit and spacious teaching rooms for the needs of the students who would be taught the Greek language, reading, writing, maths, religious studies and other subjects.

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