The Acropolis

One of the problems for the government in starting excavations officially on the Acropolis was that it was still used by the army as a fortification. Klenze proposed its demilitarization, which was accepted by the government in September 1834. This was also an opportunity 'to make it for ever unsuitable for a military defence' by demolishing the fortifications and restoring the ancient temples. This work seemed also a proper way to 'awake and retain the sympathy of civilized Europe by directing its eyes and interest on the restoration of the upper town of Athens' (von Klenze, 1838:303).

The military occupation was finally cleared by March 1835, and the works were started officially. In addition to fortifications, there was practically a small town, with small

Figure 4.14 The Parthenon of Athens in 1910. (Institut für Denkmalpflege, Berlin)

houses and gardens. The situation can be clearly appreciated in eighteenth-century drawings, where the remains of classical buildings are depicted emerging from the settlement. After the final battles of the last war, the area was in chaos: 'between capitals of columns, smashed shafts, small and large blocks of marble, there were artillery shells, fragments of case shot balls, human skulls and bones, of which many were mainly piled up near the charming caryatids of the Erechtheum' (von Klenze, 1838:290). The Erechtheum was almost completely ruined; its walls had been pulled down by soldiers in search of lead, and the north porch had collapsed. In 1827, the loft inside it had been used as a bomb-shelter and was protected by earth. Under the heavy weight, however, it collapsed, killing eleven people. One of the caryatids had been shot at and part had collapsed. The Propylaea were in ruins and the whole entrance was walled in and blocked with fortifications; a so-called Frankish Tower rose above it on the southwest corner.

The first excavations on the Acropolis had already taken place in the spring of 1833. Pittakis, who as a young boy had gone enthusiastically to look for classical ruins, had the permission of Kapodistrias for a small excavation near the Parthenon. He was lucky enough to find three well-preserved panels of basreliefs, as well as some inscriptions. While still in Athens, Klenze organized a solemn inauguration of the official excavation and restoration on the Acropolis in the presence of the king on 10 September 1834. The entrance through the Propylaea was opened for the king to reach the north side of the Parthenon, where a drum was prepared ready to be raised into position. Nearby, a well-preserved frieze was 'discovered' under a little layer of earth. Klenze himself made a speech concluding that 'traces of a barbaric era, the rubble and formless ruins, will disappear from here as well as all over Hellas, and the remains of the glorious Old Times will arise in new splendour. They will form the most reliable support for a more glorious present and future'.37

Klenze used his time in Athens to study the Parthenon, paying special attention to the construction methods. He admired the quality of work, and the extremely fine jointing, and assumed that the metal cramps had been intended as protection against earthquakes. He appreciated the choice of materials from the point of view of maintenance, and made favourable comparisons with German cathedrals (Cologne, Strasbourg). Before leaving for Munich, Klenze prepared a programme for the excavations and some guidelines for restoration works on the site. The main points of these guidelines were the following:38

1. Fortifications that had no archaeological, constructional or picturesque (' malerisch') interest should be removed, but the original ancient ground levels should be conserved with the terraces, podia and substructures.

2. Restorations should start with the north side of the Parthenon, which was most visible from the town, then continue with its cella walls and the southern colonnade. After this could come the Erechtheum and the Propylaea. He further suggested a museum to be built at the west side of the Parthenon.

3. All available original columns should be re-erected. If one or two drums were missing, these could be made new of available marble 'without pretending to conceal the restoration'. Fragments of architraves, triglyphs, metopes and ledges should be placed back in position respecting the picturesque character of the building. Some columns could be left out without damage to the effect of the whole. 4. The remaining sculptures should be deposited either in the mosque or in the Thesion. Other elements of interest, such as profiles, ornaments and fragments with painted decoration, should be conserved and grouped both inside and around the ruins in order to preserve their picturesque character. Stones and marbles not included in these categories should be sold as building material. The rubble could be taken down to the Areiospagos and used later to build the terraces of the royal palace.

In the context of the masterplan of Athens, Klenze included a recommendation for the conservation of some picturesque parts of the 'later additions' of the Acropolis. Such was the 'Tower of Acciajuoli' or a 'Venetian bastion' next to the Propylaea. Klenze was also specific about the conservation of the surroundings of the Acropolis. He foresaw the preservation of the 'old Athens', i.e., the Plaka. In their first plans, Schaubert and Kleanthes intended to integrate it in the new development through some main streets. Klenze supported this and reaffirmed that the Acropolis should always retain its position as the major attraction and culmination of the city. Klenze lent great importance to the conservation of the picturesque setting of the ruins; reconstruction was acceptable so far as they could be done with original material. Otherwise, restorations should be limited to the minimum necessary. Any reintegrations should be clearly distinguished from the original - following the principles already established in Rome and also defined by Quatremere de Quincy in his Dictionary of Architecture a few years earlier, in 1830. There was little concern for the conservation of 'non-classical' structures, or the study of 'unimportant' spoils from the site or from the demolition of houses; these were thrown down and used as building material or as filling.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment