July 14, 2017

George Lampakis and the Skull of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite in 1901

Founder of the Byzantine Museum of Athens, Prof. George Lampakis, pictured here with Metropolitan Neilos of Karpathos and Kasos, at the Cell of Skourtaioi, Mount Athos, in August 1901. It was at the Cell of Skourtaioi that St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite reposed and was buried in 1809. The skull on the table is that of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. Photo can be found at the Byzantine Museum of Athens.

George Lampakis (1854-1914) was a key figure in the formation of the Byzantine and Christian Museum collection in Athens. He was educated in Athens in theology and in Germany in the developing field of Christian Archaeology. Upon his return to Greece, he participated in the growing willingness to understand Byzantium as a crucial part of Greek identity. He was among the founders of the Christian Archaeological Society.

The Byzantine and Christian Museum developed out of the collection of the Christian Archaeological Society which Lampakis curated. The Museum itself was founded in 1914 soon after the capture of Thessaloniki, a city of particular significance to the Byzantine patrimony of the modern Greek state. The first director of a distinct Byzantine and Christian Musem was Adamantios Adamantiou, and he and his successor, George Soteriou, both expanded the collection and shifted its focus. They drew upon the growing prestige of Byzantine material and Byzantine history within Greece, which by the second half of the 19th century had emerged as a counterbalance to Classical philhellenism and its association with Western political and cultural interventionism.