What Lies Hidden Under Hagia Sophia?

The former Basilica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (Constantinople) is the undisputed symbolic center of the Greek Orthodox faith, hosting millions of visitors each year who are awed by its great religious, historical and architectural importance.

From 537 to 1453 it served as the undisputed heart of the mighty Byzantine Empire.

“The Great Church” — as the Byzantines called it — has naturally been a treasure trove of great finds for historians and archaeologists alike. Over the years there have been arguments purporting the existence of an extensive hidden area under Hagia Sophia, since it is known that crypts were a common feature of the churches built in the early Christian period.

Additionally, there is the argument that for a cathedral of such enormous importance, it is almost impossible not to have had secret places underneath for precious artifacts to be hidden and from which people could escape in case of a siege.

There are enticing legends about what may possibly be hiding underneath the enormous structure, but there has never been any proof.

Hagia Sophia: The Center of Greek Orthodox Faith Through the Ages

Hagia Sophia remains the symbolic center of the Greek Orthodox faith, even almost six centuries after its fall to the Ottomans. From 537 to 1453, the “Great Church” – as the Byzantines called it – was the eastern heart of Christianity. Full story: https://bit.ly/2HZPGGQ

Posted by Greek Reporter on Thursday, 4 April 2019

Although speculation abounds, research from 1935 and onward has shed very little light on what Hagia Sophia may be hiding underground. The basilica’s great cistern certainly lies underground, but it is located 150 meters southwest of the ancient church and was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in 532 AD.

Of course there are subterranean tunnels and a water system used for the cathedral and all its surrounding areas. Research has shown the existence of nine wells and several tunnels used for ventilation.

However, a recent discovery provides more historical background about the iconic basilica: a disk identifying the exact spot where Emperor Justinian I once stood in the gigantic cathedral.

The disc-shaped stone circle made out of a porphyry which has been identified as the place where Justinian I actually stood, was found underneath another building known as the Northeast Vestibule.

This finding is the result of research conducted by archaeologists Ken Dark and Jan Kostenec who worked at the site from 2004 until 2018. They have written a fascinating new book titled “Hagia Sophia: An Archaeological Reexamination of the Cathedral of Byzantine Constantinople.”

In 532 Justinian I gave the order to build a magnificent cathedral to thank God for saving his throne during the Nika Insurrection and to honor Christendom. The splendid, monumental building — constructed at lightning speed and finished by the year 537 — would also serve to show of Justinian’s absolute power and immense wealth.

Hagia Sophia was actually built on the site where two cathedrals had been built previously, both destroyed by fires, with the second fire occurring during the Nika Revolt.

Justinian I was the most important and powerful emperor in Byzantine history. It was he who restored the unity of the Roman empire by in turn kicking out the Vandals, Huns and Franks who had conquered Italy and North Africa during the reign of his predecessors.

In addition to his glorious cathedral, Justinian I left what is perhaps an even greater legacy to Byzantium by writing the Corpus Iuris Civilis, known as the “Code of Justinian.” This codification of laws, which remained the foundation of the Byzantine legal system for 900 years, has even influenced modern legal systems.

So the spot marking where the great Emperor Justinian I supposedly stood in the basilica, according to archaeologists and historians, is an important archaeological find.

Furthermore, researchers have found that Hagia Sophia’s structure was even larger and more elaborate than previous conclusions presented, while new mosaics, frescoes, and tiles from the ancient and medieval periods were recently revealed after plaster was removed from its walls.

And there is more. Researchers have found what is likely to be the baptistery, which was previously believed to have been lost. It is thought that this structure would have been where the children of the emperor were baptized, and where all the children of the court were formally inducted into the Church.

Another incredible recent discovery is an area underneath a large hall which may have served as a library in ancient times.

The size of the space indicates that it could potentially have held thousands of scrolls, making it an ideal space for learning and inquiry, a natural center for learning in the very heart of the Byzantine world.

EU Adds Naxos Island's ''Arseniko'' Cheese to Protected Geographical Indication List

The European Commission announced on Monday that yet another iconic, traditional Greek product will be added to its coveted list of ”Protected Geographical Indication” (PGI) foods.
Arseniko cheese, made for millennia on the island of Naxos, will soon be added to over 1,460 already protected food products from around the European Union. Its unique name means ”male” in Greek.
This Naxos delicacy is a ripe, hard cheese traditionally made from unpasteurized goat’s milk.

Μεταξύ Αρσενικού … & αχλαδίου🍐, ένας ακόμη Έλληνας 🇬🇷 ΠΟΠ-σταρ εισέρχεται στην ευρωπαϊκή σκηνή❗️Το νόστιμο τυρί 🧀 της…

Posted by Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή στην Ελλάδα on Monday, 20 January 2020

It stands out from other cheeses thanks to its intense, spicy and savory taste and it is produced and matured in various communities of Naxos as well as other small islets belonging to the Small Cyclades archipelago.
The PGI distinction emphasizes the relationship between the specific geographic region and the name of the product, where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic of a foodstuff is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
European consumers will now be able to see the characteristic red label on this cheese, and be completely sure that it is authentic ”Arseniko” cheese, produced on the island of Naxos, and not an imitation cheese made elsewhere.

Greek Poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke Dies at 81

Popular Greek poet Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81.
Greece’s Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni expressed her condolences to the family of the poet soon after the news of her death became known.
Anghelaki-Rooke, a goddaughter of the great Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis, spoke fluent French, English and Russian besides her native Greek.
She published several books of poetry and translations of classic poets, and taught at several American universities, including Princeton University, where she served as Poet in Residence.
Anghelaki-Rooke also studied at the renowned International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, later teaching at Harvard University, the University of Utah, and San Francisco State University.
In her message, Minister Mendoni said that Anghelaki-Rooke’s poems “were translated into more than ten languages. She was loved by readers of different generations and honored by her fellow poets.”
Mendoni also requested of the Ministry of the Interior that the writer’s funeral service expenses be assumed by the state.
Among Anghelaki-Rooke’s long list of works are the ”Le Grand Guide de la Grèce,” ”Enantios erotas,” and ”Beings and Things on their Own.”
Anghelaki-Rooke will be buried on the island of Aegina, next to her husband, Rodney Rooke.

Greece Plans to Scrap Primary Residence Protection, Introduce Individual Bankruptcy

The Greek authorities are planning to introduce to the country’s judicial system the institution of individual insolvency, in which a person is able to declare bankruptcy, liquidate his or her property and receive a second chance in life, free of debt — but without retaining any personal wealth.
This institution, widely known and used for many years in the Anglo-Saxon world, is about to replace the already-existing scheme which protects the main residence of Greek citizens from foreclosure.
This aspect of the plan has led to negative reactions, which have already began to spread.
The Greek government has announced that from May 1, 2020 onward, the law which protects one’s main residence from the auction block will be scrapped; those who meet the criteria to enjoy the protection of the currently-existing law have until April 30 to apply to safeguard their primary residences.
The current scheme will be replaced by a system of individual insolvency, in which an individual will be able to declare bankruptcy, lose all of his or her possessions and then apply for the total removal of any remaining debt.
This procedure will also include the primary residence of the individual, meaning that he or she and their family could lose their only house, something which is nearly unthinkable to many in Greece based on the present practice of total protection of primary homes up to a certain value.
However, the government has said that it will also introduce a scheme that will protect the most vulnerable from becoming homeless, most likely by subsidizing their rent, after their home is taken by the bank.
However, political parties and social organizations have already began reacting negatively to this prospect, claiming that Greek society is not ready to see scenes of families being forcefully evicted from their own homes due to economic hardship.
There are still no details on the exact specifications of the new system which will replace the primary-residence protection scheme which is currently in place. However, it is almost certain that the government’s initiative will face some serious criticism in the coming months.

Ancient Greek Shepherd Dog in Danger of Extinction

The Greek Shepherd, the dog which has been bred for centuries for guarding livestock in the mountainous regions of the country, is now in danger of extinction, experts are warning.
The decline of livestock farming, along with an increase in uncontrolled interbreeding with other dogs, have altered the Greek Shepherd’s distinctive characteristics. It has been estimated that currently, fewer than 3,000 pure Greek Shepherd dogs remain in Greece.
They are considered brave, decisive, and loyal working dogs with a highly developed sense of duty and a strong protective instinct toward herd animals and their territory. These independent dogs, however, need consistent training and intelligent guidance.

The Greek Shepherd is a medium to large size dog, with a solid body and great physical strength, capable of not only guiding the herd but also fighting with an enemy while maintaining its physical superiority. Its head is massive, featuring a large muzzle.
In an attempt to rescue the breed, the “Arcturos” animal sanctuary, located in northern Greece, has been implementing their Greek Shepherd Dog Breeding Program since 1998.
“The Greek Shepherd Dog is one of the oldest breeds and should survive. It is a shame that all European countries have managed to recognize their breeds, and we in Greece have not,” says Panos Stefanou, communications officer for Arcturos.
Stefanou notes that there is a lack of a sufficient number of purebred dogs which would enable experts to even create a registry.
In addition to Arcturos, an organization called Friends of the Greek Shepherd (http://www.ofep.gr) is also trying to help the breed recover and continue to serve as the iconic Greek dog.

More Than One Third of Greek Households Unable to Pay Utility Bills


With more than a third of households unable to pay their utility bills on time, Greece has the unenviable distinction of topping all EU countries in the largest number of people unable to do so, according to data compiled by the EU statistical service.
According to Eurostat, in 2018 almost seven percent of households across the European Union were unable to pay utility bills such as heating, electricity, gas and water on time due to financial difficulties.
In Greece, this share of the population rose to a staggering 36 percent. Cyprus landed sixth on the list, after Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia.

In contrast, very few households found themselves unable to pay their utility bills on time in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Austria, all of which reported approximately around two percent of their residents who experienced this problem.
Households with dependent children faced particular difficulties in paying utility bills on time.
In the EU, just under 14 percent of households consisting of a single adult with dependent children faced such difficulties in 2018, compared with less than three percent of households consisting of two adults with at least one of them 65 years or older.
Among households with two or three adults and dependent children, this share was approximately 11 percent across the entire EU.

Aerial Photo of Snow-Capped Mount Olympus Goes Viral


This aerial photograph shot on Sunday of a snow-capped Mount Olympus, the home of Zeus and the ancient Greek gods, has gone viral.
The photo was captured by Kostas Rossidis of the Hellenic Seaplane Association as a way to mark “World Snow Day.”
World Snow Day, an initiative of the World Ski Federation (FIS) was celebrated on January 19. An array of events were organized on that day at ski resorts in many countries.

Παγκόσμια Ημέρα Χιονιού σήμερα Κυριακή 19 Ιανουαρίου και ο Κώστας Ρωσσίδης φωτογράφισε από αεροπλάνο τον χιονισμένο Όλυμπο, οι κορυφές του οποίου βρίσκονταν πάνω από το παχύ στρώμα χαμηλών νεφώσεων και ομίχλης.

Posted by Meteo Gr on Sunday, 19 January 2020

Mount Olympus’s Mytikas peak rises to a majestic 2,918 meters, or around 9,573 feet, and is the highest point in all of Greece.
August 2 marks the anniversary of the first time it was climbed successfully in 1913, and every year tens of thousands of people travel to the mountain to climb it.
The Olympus region was declared Greece’s first national park in 1938.
The noble aim of this important act was cited at the time as “the preservation in perpetuity of the natural environment of the region, i.e. of wild flora, fauna and natural landscape, as well as its cultural and other values.”
The entire area around Mt. Olympus was proclaimed ‘Biosphere Reserve’  in 1981 by UNESCO.

Greece Awards Hellinikon Project Casino License to Mohegan

The Hellenic Gaming Commission awarded the casino operating license at Hellinikon, south of Athens, to the consortium Mohegan Gaming Advisors – GEK Terna SA on Monday.
Hard Rock International, the other candidate in the bidding process, has a 10-day deadline to either object to the decision or to resort to Greece’s Council of State.
The decision means that Greece has come one step closer to starting work on the ambitious Hellinikon project, the largest urban development project in all of Europe.
The striking design for the building was created by Steelman Partners, an international architectural firm specializing in IRC design and development. The concept form draws inspiration from the architectural history of Greece, particularly from Athenian sculptures and buildings, including the Acropolis and its iconic Caryatids.


Lamda Development, the developer of the project in Hellinikon, said that the majority of pending issues have been settled, while others are currently in the process of being decided upon, in an announcement made several days ago.
Once these pending issues are resolved, the company will be ready to go forward with the implementation of the project.
Lamda Development successfully completed a 650-million-euro share capital increase plan in December of 2019, the largest share capital increase ever by a non-financial company in Greece in the last decade.
Aegean Airlines – a strategic partner of Lamda Development – participated in the plan, along with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which acquired 1.8 percent of the company.
Following completion of the share capital increase, Lamda Development’s capitalization and net asset value will exceed 1.0 billion euros.
Odysseas Athanasiou, Lamda Development’s CEO, addressing an extraordinary general shareholders’ meeting held recently, presented in detail the works for the first five years of the project, which is expected to breathe new life into the entire area.
Athanasiou reiterated his belief that the Hellinikon project is projected to add 2.0 percent to Greece’s GDP.
In the first five years, Lamda Development plans to complete a large part of the park, the marina, the largest shopping center in the country, the beach, the casino, hotels and at least 800 apartments at Hellinikon.
Lamda reassured the public and investors that all the bidding for construction work and hiring will be made with total and absolute transparency.

Secretary Pompeo Sends Letter to PM Mitsotakis, Affirming Support for Greece

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday morning, where he expresses strong and unequivocal American support for Greece’s prosperity and security.
This is a rare diplomatic move, since the last time a US Secretary of State sent a letter to a Greek Premier was more than four decades ago, during the tenure of Henry Kissinger.
The letter is in a very friendly tone, highlighting the unprecedented friendship of the two nations in many vital sectors of policy today.
”The signing of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (“MDCA”) is a turning point in an enhanced security partnership between Greece and the United States. Apart from being fellow members of NATO, our two countries are forging a much closer strategic relationship through the MDCA,” Pompeo noted.
”As President Trump said when he was with you, our relationship is “extraordinary,” he stated.
Secretary Pompeo went on to say that Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ recent visit to the US reaffirmed the close ties and cooperation between the two countries.
”It also reaffirmed the emergence of Greece – after almost a decade of crisis – as a success story of economic recovery, and in the process demonstrated remarkable social cohesion and strong democratic institutions,” Pompeo said.
Expressing a strong message of support, Pompeo stated that ”the United States has supported Greece, and we will keep doing so. We consider Athens a key ally, and a crucial player in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as the Balkans. The United States will remain committed to supporting Greece’s prosperity, security, and democracy.”
Pompeo also reminded the Premier of his remarks made during Mitsotakis’ recent visit to Washington.
”I spoke to this clearly when you and I were together with Greeks from across America, stating “we will keep supporting you as a leader in Europe… The future will only grow brighter for our countries and our relationship together.”
In an indirect message regarding Ankara’s behavior in the region, Pompeo was guarded and careful, but clear.
”The United States is following closely developments in the region and stands firm in its belief that those with interests in the Eastern Mediterranean should seek solutions through peaceful means, consistent with Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, and refrain from any action or declaration that could be provocative,” the chief of American diplomacy said.
”We do not need an escalation of tensions in the region, but rather candid dialogue that leads to outcomes that respect international law,” the Secretary stated.
This unusual letter is seen by the Greek government as another sign of America’s strong interest in the region, and Washington’s desire to see the Eastern Mediterranean as a region of cooperation and economic growth rather than as a place of rising tensions and national antagonisms.

UK Sides With Cyprus, Deplores New Turkish Drilling in Eastern Mediterranean

High-ranking officials of the United Kingdom condemned on Tuesday Turkey’s new provocative actions around and inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus.
Asked to comment on the Turkish activity around the island by the state-run Cyprus News Agency on Tuesday, the British High Commission in Nicosia said that the UK deplores Turkish drilling in the waters around Cyprus, and continues to call for de-escalation.
A spokesperson for the High Commission, which is the equivalent of an Embassy of Britain to the countries which are members of the Commonwealth, said that ”The United Kingdom has been clear from the very beginning that we condemn Turkish drilling activities into the waters around Cyprus. We also continue to call for de-escalation.”
On Sunday evening, the government of the Republic of Cyprus used tough language to describe the latest Turkish moves in the sea between the Exclusive Economic Zones of Cyprus and Israel.
Cyprus even declared Turkey a ”pirate state” after Ankara announced that the Turkish research vessel ”Yavuz” will soon conduct a new series of hydrocarbon research and drillings south and southeast of the island Republic.