Exhibitions - Events - Installations
Designation of the "Monument of Zalongo" as a Monument of Modern Cultural Heritage of Greece11.06.2021

The "Monument of Zalongo" of the famous Greek sculptor George Zongolopoulos, in the community of Kamarina, in the Preveza Region in Western Greece, was characterized by the Ministry of Culture as a Monument of Modern Cultural Heritage of Greece.

The monument is one of the first examples of application of the principles of modernism in the monumental sculpture of post-war Greece. The female figures do not represent well-known historical figures, but were intentionally left by the sculptor without specific characteristics and the complete removal of the details of the face and torso was chosen, aiming the sculptor to leave the viewer free to create with his soul and imagination. each of these women. Thus, he avoided realism, despite the anthropomorphic theme of the monument.

Its natural location, but also its monumental scale dimensions, 18 x 15 m, make the Monument of Zalongo visible from a distance of 30 km, a fact that is narrated by its creator, in 1960, when he saw it from the ship traveling from Greece to Italy, writing: "The Monument is placed on the edge of a vertical rock [...], the communication and ascent to the rock is done only through a narrow path passing through steep cliffs. To the north Zalongo is surrounded by the majestic continental mountains. Below the rock and at a distance of 800 m. are the ruins of ancient Kassopi. The Athens-Corfu tourist road runs between Zalongo and the sea. During the crossing of the inner line of Corfu and outer of Italy, the Monument is visible as well. Despite the rough and majestic spectacle of the mainland mountains and the extended view of the Ionian Sea, a feeling of balance and peace is created. The scale of the Monument adapts to the scale of the landscape".

The Monument was designed by George Zongolopoulos and was executed under the supervision of himself, of the architect Patroklos Karantinos and the marble craftsman Eleftherios Gyftopoulos, inside the archeological site of Kassopi. The project came through public tendering procedures and the local community contributed decisively to its construction, providing voluntary work, but also government agencies, thus making it a unique in Greece sample of art in the public space.

On behalf of the Foundation, the president and nephew of George Zongolopoulos, Nicos Theodoridis, who had submitted the request for designation to the Ministry of Culture in view of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, notes, among other things: "The characterization of the sculpture "The Dance of Zalongo" by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, as a Monument of Modern Cultural Heritage of Greece, is a justification for the great Greek artist, George Zongolopoulos, and recognition of the artistic value of the monument itself. At the same time, however, the decision to declare the artwork a monument is a recognition of the sacrifice of the Greeks of the pre-revolutionary period on the altar of Freedom and their deafening response to the dilemma "Freedom or Death", the dilemma that after a few years became the symbol and slogan of the Liberation Struggle. It is also a recognition of the contribution of the Greek woman, the heroic woman who fought and sacrificed side by side with their husbands and sons.

The designation of the Monument of Zalongo coincides, fortunately, with the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution but also with the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of the Monument in 10 June 1961. The size of the monument in terms of urban landscape, corresponds to a five-storey apartment building that develops on two plots ", points out Nicos Theodoridis and adds:" Its construction began in 1954 and lasted until 1960 and was funded by school funds and the Ministry of National Defense also contributed to the work with soldiers, but also with cars and other technological equipment. George Zongolopoulos from 1954 to 1960 every spring he left his studio in Athens and, taking the tools of his work and boarded a truck to Kamarina, at the roots of the cliff of the mount of Zalongo. The access to the site of the monument was made by a path between rocks and bushes. The interior of the monument is made of reinforced concrete and the figures of women are consisted of 4,300 of white limestone blocks found and selected by the artist in a dam 160 km from the construction site of the monument. The stone was transported in volumes and in dimensions 50 x 25 x 20 cm.  was carved in situ. All these hundreds of tons of materials had to be lifted by hand to the construction site. Zongolopoulos tried to make an elevator using the machine from an army jeep, cables and pulleys, but after an accident and for safety reasons decided that the materials he decided that the materials can only be transported by humans and animals. Soldiers, but also women and men, with their animals but also with their hands and shoulders, for six years every spring climbing the difficult path between rocks bushes and snakes, carried water, cements, gravel, irons and stones at the construction site high on the rock where Zongolopoulos with workers, craftsmen and stonemasons made his work. The result lived up to everyone's expectations.

"The project was so impressive that immediately began the controversy over the paternity of the idea, but also the initiative of construction," says Nicos Theodoridis. "The newspapers of the time write that the unveilings took place on June 10, 1961 with great solemnity with the presence of then queen Frideriki and king Pavlos, members of the government of K. Karamanlis, representatives of the Greek Church and many people." As the years passed, the poor lightning protection and the ice of winter constantly destroyed the monument, Zongolopoulos' invocations for the need of repairs were "to the ears of the deaf". Four years after the death of the creator, following the actions of the George Zongolopoulos Foundation and the Region of Epirus, in 2007, the Municipality of Zalongo and the Region of Epirus received a significant amount of money for the restoration of the project. Parts of the women's heads had been completely destroyed and disappeared, the Foundation decided to assign the 3D Digital Imaging and Geometric Imaging of the monument to the Photogrammetry Laboratory of the National Technical University of Athens. The repair and restoration of the monument by craftsmen, artists and student conservators, as well as the new lightning protection technology, lasted five years and was done with suggestions, studies and supervision of the director of the Foundation and architect, Angelos Moretis. The restoration of the monument, 47 years after its construction, revealed various signs that overlapped each other and that had been placed in various, from time to time, "inaugurations" of the monument. Considering that these signs are also part of the history of the monument, they were integrated in the base of the monument separately.

The designation of the sculpture as a Modern Cultural Heritage Monument ensures the protection of the monument so that it has the official care of the Greek State in accordance with its historical and cultural value, the Zongolopoulos Foundation emphasizes. And as "access to the sacred rock and the site of the monument is possible only from a stone path, 410 steps, designed by architect Patroklos Karantinos, the construction of a cable car transportation system for easy access to the monument is necessary," said the announcement of the Zongolopoulos Foundation.

The Monument of Zalongo, on a scale of 1/10, was created by the sculptor in four bronze-casted sculptures, which are located: in the Presidential Mansion, in the National Sculpture Gallery, in the Benaki Museum and in the Open-Air Municipal Sculpture Gallery of Psychiko dedicated to the work of George Zongolopoulos.