The magnificent columns and arches of the Byzantine Museum make an imposing sight on Zante Town’s Solomou Square – but that’s just the beginning of a fascinating walk into the past for visitors exploring its historic halls.
Many of the exhibits were rescued from an earthquake and fire on Zante in 1953 and, despite its neoclassical façade, the museum was built in 1959 with seven exhibition galleries, two on the ground floor and five on the upper floor, to a design by architect Spyridon Lengeri.
A display based on a photograph from 1934 shows how the island looked before 1953, contrasting the scenes with photographs of buildings ruined by the earthquake.
The museum is closed on Tuesdays, Sundays and public holidays, but the entry fee of a few euros, with concessions, is waived on heritage days such as International Museum Day in May.
Sculptures, paintings, wood carvings, murals and icons are among the displays representing more than 1,000 years of the Byzantine Empire, from 330-1453, which was the eastern branch of the Roman Empire, with its capital at the ancient Greek city of Byzantium. The city was renamed Constantinople, in honour of the Emperor Constantine, and today is the site of the modern Istanbul, in Turkey.
There are also treasures from the later Ottoman Empire and exhibits from the 16th and 17th century and later.
The statue of the 19th century Greek poet Dionysios Solomos, which overlooks the first courtyard, is, a copy of an original by an Athenian sculptor, George Vroutos, while other exhibits include an 18th century portrait of the Prophet David, wearing a turban and plucking a lyre, a wood carving of the crucifixion from 1690 by an unknown artist from the church of St Demetrios of Kola, and a 12th-13th century wall painting from the Church of the Saviour, Zante.