Museum of Byzantine Culture aims in presenting
various aspects of life during the byzantine and
post-byzantine periods: art, ideology, social
structure and religion, as well as how historical
changes and the political situation were affecting
s everyday life.
At the same time, the activity of the Department of
Educational Programmes, the good structure and
function of the conservation laboratories and of the
archaeological material storerooms, the provision of
scientific know-how to other Balkan countries, the
organisation of scientific meetings and conferences,
as well as the editing and publishing work, render
the Museum into an exceptionally important centre
for the preservation, research and promotion of
Byzantine and Postbyzantine culture. Since the
s inauguration in 1994, an annual bulletin is
published, the first of its kind by a Greek public
The Museum of
Byzantine Culture was awarded the Council of Europe
Museum Prize for 2005, following the concurrent
recommendation of the Council'
s Committee for Culture, Science and
founding of the Museum of Byzantine Culture and its
official opening in 1994 in Thessaloniki, the most
"Byzantine" city of the modern Greek state,
marks the end of a story that had begun long before,
just after the city'
s liberation in 1912.
August 1913, a decree issued by the Governor General
of Macedonia, Stephanos Dragoumis, resolved to
establish a "Central Byzantine Museum" in
Thessaloniki. At the suggestion of the Metropolitan
of Thessaloniki, Gennadios, it was decided that it
would be housed in Acheiropoietos Church. The
decision was never carried out, however. Instead of
Acheiropoietos, a government decree issued in 1917
appointed the Rotunda as the new Macedonian museum,
and large numbers of Christian sculptures were
collected there, some of them remaining on display
in the Rotunda until the earthquake of 1978.
Meanwhile, the Christian and Byzantine Museum was
founded in Athens in 1914, and in 1916 antiquities
were transferred en masse from Thessaloniki to
Athens "for their own protection" and
eventually included in the collection of the
Byzantine Museum in Athens.
question of founding the Museum resurfaced in
actuality after the change of polity in 1975. In
1977 a nationwide architectural competition was
announced and it was won by the entry submitted by
foundation stone was laid in March 1989 and the
building was completed and handed over in October
1993. The antiquities that had been transferred to
Athens in 1916 returned in June 1994, part of which
was displayed in the museum'
s inaugural exhibition, "Byzantine
Treasures of Thessaloniki: The Return Journey",
which opened, together with the museum, on 11
The 11 rooms that comprise the Museum'
s permanent exhibition opened gradually to
the public from 1997 to early 2004.
Since 1997 the Museum of Byzantine Culture has had
the status of an independent regional unit of the
Ministry of Culture with its own director.