It all started on November 16, 1972, when the UNESCO General Congress passed the Treaty on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This Treaty states in a nutshell that the signatory states recognize that the regions in their national territory which have been inscribed on the list constitute, without prejudice to national sovereignty and property rights, a world heritage 'for the protection of which the international community is responsible, which must work as a whole for this purpose.'
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For its part, UNESCO helps states to protect these sites by providing technical assistance, vocational training as well as emergency financial assistance to areas in immediate danger.
For the inclusion of a monument in the list, its criteria are nicely summarized in these two sentences: 'to show important human values for a long period of time" and "to bear a unique or at least excellent testimony to a cultural tradition, living or extinct culture.'
Greece has 18 monuments on this list, which receive legal protection from the organization. Let's see below what they are and let's remember parts of Greece’s history.
1. Acropolis, Athens
The Acropolis of Athens - credits: greece-is.com
On a rocky cliff in the center of Athens is one of the largest cultural heritage sites in the world, the Acropolis. It is a symbol of the ancient civilization, power, and greatness of Athens during the period of its greatest prosperity, the ‘Golden Age of Pericles’. The monuments of the Acropolis stand out for their pioneering architecture and later influenced the trends of art for many centuries.
The Acropolis of Athens and its monuments are world symbols of the classical spirit and culture and are the largest architectural and artistic complex inherited from Greek antiquity in the world.
In the second half of the 5th century BC, Athens, after the victory against the Persians and the establishment of democracy, took a leading position among the other city-states of the ancient world.
In the following period, as thought and art flourished, an exceptional group of artists implemented the ambitious plans of the Athenian politician Pericles and, under the inspired guidance of the sculptor Pheidias, turned the rocky hill into a unique monument of thought and art.
2. Archeological Site of Delphi
The Archaeological Site of Delphi - credits: epostravel-tours.com
The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo was located, was the location the ancient Greeks described as the ‘navel of the world’. Harmoniously combined with the wonderful landscape and sacred significance, Delphi in the 6th century BC. was indeed the religious center and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world.
At the foot of Mount Parnassos is the famous oracle of ancient Greece where the oracle of Apollo was given. Delphi was for many centuries the religious and spiritual center of Greek antiquity and the fame of the oracle reached the ends of the world. The oracle of Delphi is believed to have made important predictions regarding important events such as the Trojan War.
3. Archeological Site of Olympia
The Archaeological Site of Olympia - credits: lonelyplanet.com
Olympia, in the western Peloponnese, in the valley of the river Alpheus, flourished the most glorious sanctuary of ancient Greece, which was dedicated to the father of the gods, Zeus.
Olympia was established as the most important religious and sports center. At the archaeological site of Olympia, the great Olympic Games were born. They took place every four years in honor of Zeus and to this day are the largest world sporting event.
The beginning of the cult and the mythical matches that took place in Olympia is lost in the depths of the centuries. Local myths about the powerful king of the region, the famous Pelops, and the river god Alpheus reveal the strong ties of the sanctuary with both the East and the West.
4. Archeological site of Mycenae and Tiryns
The Archaeological site of Mycenae and Tiryns - credits: greeka.com
Mycenae and Tiryns are two cities associated with the Homeric Epics, Odyssey and Iliad, which have been a model for European art and literature for thousands of years.
The archeological sites of these two cities are great monuments of the Mycenaean civilization that flourished in the eastern Mediterranean and left its mark over the centuries.
Mycenae was an ancient city of Argolis. During the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the greatest centers of Greek culture, constituting a powerful military fortress that dominated most of southern Greece.
According to Pausanias, Perseus built Mycenae in Tiryns and gave them this name either because the ‘fungus’ (the case) from his sword fell there or because while he was thirsty, he found a ‘fungus’ (a mushroom) and when he pulled it he saw the source of Persia, which still exists today.
The archeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are the imposing ruins of the two largest cities of the Mycenaean civilization, which dominated the eastern Mediterranean world from the 15th to the 12th century BC. and played a vital role in the development of classical Greek culture.
5. Medieval City of Rhodes
The Medieval City of Rhodes - credits: discovergreece.com
Walking in the medieval streets of Rhodes, one will feel that time has frozen in the time of the knights. The famous Order of Ioannina occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and left behind a great gem of architecture.
The Palace of the Great Lords, the Hospital, and the Road of the Knights make the Upper City of Rhodes an important monument of the Gothic period.
The medieval city of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, was developed without any specific urban planning around the fortress-citadel of the city of Rhodes, probably after the earthquake of 515.
The fortress was divided into two distinct urban formations, the Kollakio north, and Chora south. Kollakio includes the well-known street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Master or Castello, the Hospital that has been turned into a museum, the temples of the Order, and other important buildings. In Chora are the Turkish bazaar around the Suleiman Mosque, the old market, and other buildings of tourist interest.
6. Old Town of Corfu
The Old Town of Corfu - credits: corfusecret.gr
The Old Town of Corfu is bordered by the Old and New Fortress which were created during the Venetian occupation to protect the town from the Ottomans.
The historic center of Corfu is reminiscent of something from Italy, which is not unreasonable as the rule of the Venetians on the island lasted about 400 years. The island escaped the Turkish conquerors and managed to flourish and stand out from the rest of Greece.
The Old Town of Corfu is included in the list of world natural and cultural heritage monuments as a special architectural symbol that represents an important historical period. Its registration was adopted unanimously after a positive recommendation from the international non-governmental organization ICOMOS (International Council for Monuments and Sites). It is a Byzantine settlement of the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
7. Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki - credits: gtp.gr
Thessaloniki, the second most important city in Greece, was founded in 315 and was one of the first centers of the spread of Christianity. Among its Christian monuments are pre-Christian temples and three-aisled royal churches.
They were built from the 4th to the 15th century and constitute a timeless typological series, which significantly influenced the Byzantine world. The mosaics of the Rotunda, St. Demetrius, and St. David are among the most important masterpieces of early Christian art.
Rotunda: The Rotunda belongs to the pericentric buildings, while its circular shape is what prompted its name. It was built in the years of Caesar Galerius, around 306 AD, as a temple of Zeus or Kaviros or according to others as a Mausoleum of the same.
In the center of Thessaloniki, on Agias Sofias Street and north of the homonymous church, the church of Achiropoietos is preserved, the date of construction of which is placed around the middle of the 5th c. Achiropoititos is part of the type of three-aisled wooden-roofed basilica with an attic, which ends in a semicircular arch to the east.
Church of Agios Dimitrios: It was built on the ruins of a Roman bath. The first church, a small prayer hall was built after 313. In the 5th century, the prefect Leontios built a large three-aisled basilica, which burned in 626 - 34. Immediately after the five-aisled basilica was built. In 1493 it was converted into a mosque. In 1912 it was returned to Christian worship. It burned down in the great fire of 1917 and reopened in 1949 after its restoration was completed.
Latomou Monastery: It was built on a Roman building in the late 5th - early 6th century. In 1430, with the fall of Thessaloniki, it was turned into a mosque, while the mosaic was covered with plaster. In 1921 it was attributed to Christian worship and then the mosaic was discovered. The monument today functions as a temple.
Agia Sofia Church: This church is located at the junction of Agia Sofia and Ermou streets. Dedicated to Christ, the true Word, and Wisdom of God, he celebrated on September 14 the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Panagia ton Chalkeon: At the junction of Egnatia and Aristotelous streets. It was built in the area of Megaloforos, in the central market of Thessaloniki, near the Bronze Gallery, where to this day one can find the workshops of the coppersmiths.
Church of Agios Apostolos: At the beginning of Olympou Street, near the western walls of Thessaloniki and south of Litaia Pyli. The pillar south of the church and the cistern to the northwest testify that it was a Catholic monastery.
Church of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos: Near the eastern walls of Ano Poli, between Herodotus and Apostolos Pavlou streets, is enclosed by an enclosure of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos, a member of the Vlatada Monastery, under the Patriarchate, and once a monastery catholic.
Church of Agios Panteleimon: The church, whose name is much newer, is identified with the Byzantine monastery of Theotokos Perivleptos, also known as the monastery of Mr. Isaac by its founder the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Iakovos (1295-1314).
8. Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus - credits: visitworldheritage.com
The natural beauty, the gurgling waters, and the favorable climatic conditions established the ancient city of Epidaurus the ideal place of healing of the man with the power of the gods.
Thus was created the Asklepieion, the seat of the god physician of antiquity which was the most important healing center of the Greek and Roman world.
It was the main sanctuary of the small seaside town of Epidaurus, but its fame and the recognition of its importance quickly surpassed the borders of Argolis and was considered by all Greeks the place where the medicine was born.
More than two hundred spas throughout the eastern Mediterranean were considered its institutions. Today, these monuments are not only world-famous masterpieces of ancient Greek art but also an excellent testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity.
9. Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae - credits: visitworldheritage.com
The famous temple dedicated to the god of healing and the sun was built in the steep mountains between Ilia, Arcadia, and Messinia. The temple of Apollo Epicurius, with the oldest Corinthian capital that has ever been found, combines Archaic style with Doric Rome, with some bold architectural features.
The temple is one of the most important and imposing of antiquity. It was dedicated by the Figs to Apollo because it helped them overcome a plague epidemic. It used to reach 1,130 meters, in the center of the Peloponnese.
It was erected in the second half of the 5th century BC. and was attributed to Iktinos, the architect of the Parthenon. This monument, one of the best-preserved of classical antiquity, was the first in Greece to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Meteora - credits: greecetravel.com
Meteora is famous across the world not only for being a natural wonder but also for being one of the most important religious sites in our country. Over the centuries many ascetics chose the solitary rocks of Meteora to live and pray to God. Today, there are a total of six monasteries that welcome millions of believers from around the world.
Meteora is, after Mount Athos, the largest and with a constant presence since the time of the establishment of the first ascetics until today, a monastic ensemble in Greece.
The monasteries of Meteora were in total thirty of which six are still operating today and receive a large number of pilgrims. But there are also many smaller abandoned monasteries. Most of them were founded in the 14th century.
The six monasteries to be visited in Meteora, are today restored and with most of them preserved their fresco decoration. The name ‘Meteora’ is newer and is not mentioned by ancient writers. In 1989 Unesco inscribed Meteora on the World Heritage List as a cultural and natural asset of particular importance.
11. Mount Athos
Mount Athos - credits: visit-halkidiki.gr
Mount Athos is the only place in Greece that is entirely dedicated to the worship of God and entry to women is forbidden. It is an autonomous part of the Greek state and belongs spiritually to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Mount Athos includes 20 monasteries, hermitages, huts, cells, and sanctuaries.
It is located on the peninsula of Mount Athos in Halkidiki, Macedonia, while it is unofficially designated as an ‘Autonomous Monastic State.’ Since 1988, it has been included in the list of World Heritage Sites.
Delos - credits: delosguide.com
According to Greek mythology, Apollo was born on this small island in the Cyclades. The sanctuaries of Apollo attracted pilgrims from all over Greece and Delos was a prosperous trading port.
The island has influences from the successive civilizations of the Aegean world, from the 3rd millennium BC. to the Early Christian era. The archeological site is extremely extensive and rich and gives the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port.
It is estimated that around 90 BC. on this small island, which is just a dot on the map of the Mediterranean, lived about 30,000 people from different regions. All of them adopted the Greek way of life, spoke and wrote Greek, lived in Greek houses, built shrines in which they worship. Thus, perhaps for the first time in human history, in this small corner of the earth, almost all the peoples of the Mediterranean coexist peacefully.
13. Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas, and Nea Moni of Chios
Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas, and Nea Moni of Chios - credits: olympictours.gr
Despite their significant geographical distance, with the first being located in Attica, the second in Fokida, and the third in the Aegean, these three monasteries belong to the same typological order.
The churches have been built with a large dome which is supported by small arches creating an octagonal space. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the churches had a variety of decorations, colorful ortho marble, mosaics, and mosaics on a gold background, all characteristic of the ‘second Byzantine Period.’
The Monastery of Daphni was founded in the 6th century on the ruins of the temple of Daphne Apollo. Some columns of the Ionic style of the ancient temple were used again. Today only one has survived, while the rest were transported to London by Lord Elgin.
The Monastery of Saint Luke is perhaps the most important monument of the mid-Byzantine era in Greece. It is a large building complex, whose oldest buildings date back to the 10th century and the newest to the early 20th.
The monastery complex of Nea Moni, the most prominent monument of medieval times in Chios, was founded in the middle of the 11th century. with imperial sponsorship.
14. Archaeological Site of Mystras
The Archaeological Site of Mystras - credits: greekcitytimes.com
The ‘miracle of Moria’ was erected as a fortress in 1249 by the King of Achaia William Villehardouin. It was recaptured by the Byzantines, later conquered by the Turks and the Venetians. The city was abandoned in 1832, leaving fascinating medieval ruins to stand in a location of exceptional beauty.
The founding of Mystras is connected with the first conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The castle became the core of the later castle city of Mystras, one of the most important late Byzantine cities.
With the founding of the modern city of Sparta by King Otto, in 1834, the movement of the inhabitants of Mystras to the new city began. In 1989, Mystras was registered as a cultural asset in the list of World Cultural Heritage.
15. Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos - credits: gtp.gr
From the 3rd millennium BC. Many cultures have inhabited this small Aegean island near Asia Minor. The ruins of Pythagorion, an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments and an impressive aqueduct, as well as Heraion, the temple of Hera of Samos, are still open to the public.
Ancient Samos (Pythagorion) was considered one of the most important cities of antiquity. Both in this area and in the area of Hera, the oldest archeological findings date back to the 4th millennium BC.
The findings that see the sunlight day by day testify to the existence of a city with a strong presence, enviable organization, and high level of culture. a city worthy of its inclusion in the Ionian dodecapolis, to verify its characterization by Herodotus as ‘the first of many Greek and barbaric passions.’
Heraion of Samos is the Dipteros Temple of Hera, Ionic style. The only column that still stands today, survives to about half of its original height. The infrastructure of the temple is partially preserved up to the height of the masonry and the pillar. The temple was characterized by Herodotus as the largest in Greece.
16. Archaeological Site of Philippi
The Archaeological Site of Philippi - credits: visitkavala.gr
Philippi is one of the most important and complete archeological sites of Northern Greece, with many monuments, which are associated with the evolution of the city from the Hellenistic period to the late Byzantine years. Its strategic position, distinguished by Philip II, was recently upgraded with the construction of ‘Egnatia Avenue’.
After the dramatic battle in 42 BC. who defined the political history of the Roman state lived a period of prosperity as a Roman colony. The Apostle Paul came to this lively urban center and founded the first Christian church on European soil in 49/50 AD, a fact that was to change the physiognomy of both the city and the continent.
With the recognition of Christianity and its establishment as the official religion of the state in the city, imposing Christian temples were established, a panorama of early Christian architecture.
The ancient city of Philippi was founded on the edge of the swamps that covered the southeastern part of the Drama plain. Its first inhabitants were settlers from Thassos, who founded in 360 BC the colony of Krinides, while the city flourished during the Hellenistic years.
The ruins of this walled city are located at the foot of a citadel in northeastern Greece, on the ancient route that connects Europe and Asia, the Egnatia Road. It was founded in 356 BC. by the Macedonian king Philip II, the city developed as "Little Rome" with the founding of the Roman Empire in the decades after the Battle of Philippi, in 42 BC.
The vibrant Hellenistic city of Philip II, from which you can see their walls and gates, the theater, and the burial garden, was complemented by public Roman buildings such as the forum and a monumental terrace with temples to the north.
Later, the city became the center of the Christian faith after the visit of the Apostle Paul in 49-50 AD. The ruins of his basilicas are an excellent testimony to the early founding of Christianity.
17. Historical Center (Chora), With The Monastery Of Saint John Of Theologist And The Cave Of The Apocalypse In Patmos
Patmos - greeka.com
Patmos, in the Dodecanese, is famous as the island where Saint John the Theologian wrote the Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the "beloved student" was discovered on the island in the late 10th century.
Since then, it has been a place of pilgrimage and a station of Greek Orthodox learning. The monastery complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chora, which is connected to it, includes religious and folk buildings.
The Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Theologian in Patmos is perhaps the most important monastic complex in the Aegean Sea. The founder of the monastery was Saint Christodoulos.
Built on the top of a mountain, apparently on the site of the temple of Artemis and an early Christian basilica, the monastery is surrounded by an irregular rectangular defensive enclosure dating from the end of the 11th century. until the 17th century.
The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse is one of the reference points not only of Patmos but of Christianity worldwide. The cave was the refuge of the Beloved Disciple of Jesus John in 95 AD., when the emperor Domitian exiled him to Patmos, punishing him for preaching the word of God in Ephesus.
According to Christian tradition, during John's stay in the cave, the rock was torn, and through three smaller slits, symbolizing the Holy Trinity, the voice of God was heard, which dictated to John the Holy Book of Revelation.
18. Archaeological Site Of Aigon In Vergina
The Archaeological Site of Aegion in Vergina - credits: taxigoigoumenitsa.gr
The city of Aegion, the first capital of the Kingdom of ancient Macedonia, was discovered in the 19th century near Vergina in Northern Greece.
The most important monuments are the Palace, decorated with mosaics and frescoes, and the burial site, some of which date from the 11th century BC. One of the royal tombs in the Great Tomb, was recognized as the tomb of Philip II who conquered all Greek city-states, paving the way for his son Alexander and the spread of the Hellenistic world.
At the southern end of the Macedonian plain, perched at the foot of Pieria, are Aiges, ‘the place with many herds,’ the first city of the Macedonians. The first Macedonian urban center is located south of Aliakmonas, in the heart of the area that was for Herodotus the ‘Macedonian land,’ the cradle of the Macedonians. In the same place, Alexander the Great is proclaimed king and begins the course that will lead him to establish himself as a legend.
And here you have them. The most astonishing and fascinating sites, which have earned the protection of UNESCO. The monuments included in the World Heritage List are selected and approved on the basis of their value as the best examples of human creative intelligence.
They are evidence of a significant exchange of human values and provide a unique or at least excellent testimony to a cultural tradition or culture that is still alive or has disappeared. They are directly connected with important stages of human history and for this reason, they have outstanding universal value and are part of the common heritage of mankind.
Now, call us prejudiced, but aren’t they all lust-worthy?