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Lavrion and it’s vicinity
Lavrion is situated 50 Km southeast of Athens in near proximity to “Eleftherios Venizelos” - Athens International Airport. It’s long coastline (15 Km), the National Forest of Sounio, as well as the significant archaeological and recent era monuments characterise it as an area of tourist and recreational interest.
Lavrion’s History – Its name originates from the word ‘’Lavra’’ or ‘’Lavri’’ which means narrow passing gallery, a characteristic of the area which is full of ancient and recent metallurgical mines. The area has been populated since the pre-historic ages (Neolithic Ages). The land has been rich in minerals, primarily silver and lead. The rich silver layers brought life to the area, with the ancient Greeks starting mining activities already before 3000 b.c. The mines of Lavrion became the open roads of power of ancient Athens (480 – 450 b.c.). The mining boom eventually stops after a series of rebellions of the slaves working in the mines.
Following centuries of inactivity, mining resumed in 1860 when the mining expert A. Kordellas informs the Greek governments of Lavrion’s wealth. The Italian–French company Hilarion Roux et Cie was the first to resume mining and metallurgical activities 1865 – 1873). Following the labour unrest of 1873, the Greek Metallurgic Company was founded (1873–1917), followed by the French Mineral Company of Lavrion (1875 – 1981). All metallurgical activities seized in the mid 80’s.
Today Lavrion is part of a development program, seeking to bring forward it’s historical and cultural heritage, while it’s port facilities are being upgraded to a national and international capacity.
The ancient theatre of Thoriko is considered to be the oldest of its kind, while also unique for its peculiar ellipsoidal shape. It was constructed on the south side of the Velatouri hill during approx. the middle of the 4th century b.c. There are also ruins of an industrial village and Thorikos acropolis.
The Technological and Cultural Park of Lavrio. A historical and cultural heritage project within the metallurgical facilities of the French mining company of Lavrion, runs under the auspice of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), since 1995, aiming to propel research and business activities.
The Mineral and Metallurgical Museum – Lavrio municipality aims to develop a Mineral and Metallurgical Museum of international stature. Available to education and research inherited by the five thousand years of mining and metallurgical history of the city.
The A.K.E.L Ceramic Museum (Panos Valsamakιs), temporarily accommodated in a building of the T.C.P.L. It was developed by the Lavrio Research Company with the aim to house old clay items that were manufactured by the Ceramic Company of Lavrio (1941 – 1960).
The district of Kyprianos, a historically protected area, consisting of dwellings built by the French Company to house its workers, the first workers’ homes in Greece; “Perivolakia” the triangular park with palm trees which was made in 1880 by the former French Company a place for walks and recreation. The statue of K. Konofagos (within the palm tree forest), a significant scientist, metallurgist and dean of the NTUA. Efterpi is a place for musical, theatrical and dance events, constructed in 1893, it accommodated the philharmonic band of the French Company).
The Archeological Museum, an exhibition of significant findings stretching from the Neolithic period to the first Christian centuries. In front of the Archeological Museum stands the statue of Diamantopoulos, a distinguished scientist born in Lavrio, who amongst others served as minister and vice president of the Parliament. The sculptor is Venia Triantafyllopoulou.
The Mineral Museum was established in 1986 by the Lavrio Research Company where about 700 pieces of rocks and minerals are displays (total collection approximately 1500 pcs). They are all extracted from the surrounding areas and some of them are unique worldwide. It is temporarily accommodated at the porter’s lodge of the former company A.K.E.L. Its front yard is decorated by a sculpture made by sculptor Hariati.
Kamariza (ancient Maroneia) on the hills west of Lavrio, has a number of preserved dwellings of the mining village, as well as outdoor storage areas and wells. The ore–mineral Museum at the complex Serpieri No 1 well.
Sounio at the tip of the Attica peninsula, was inhabited from the early pre-historical ages. According to Greek mythology Aegeas, the king of Athens threw himself off the rock and drowned when he saw the black sails on his son’s -Theseas- boat and assumed he had been killed by the Cretan Minotaur. The myth claims that the sea surrounding the cape was called Aegean, after the tragic king.
The people of Sounio in the earlier years worshipped two quarelling gods, Poseidon, the god of the sea and Athena, the god of wisdom. The Poseidon temple at the cape of Sounio of Doric form was constructed in 444 – 440 b. c. during the Pericles period by white marble from Agrileza. It was built within the fortress the Athenians had erected at the end of the 6th century b.c. to protect the precious metalliferous area and the greater Attica region. On top of the adjacent hill lie the ruins of the Temple of Athena, constructed before 431 b.c.
Ruins of the ancient market as well as other metallurgical findings can be found in the vicinity.
In recent years the Poseidon temple and surrounding areas have become a landmark of tourist attraction coupled by the breathtaking views of the sunset.
The National Sounio Forest, spreads from Plaka all the way to Cape Sounio and Legraina, enclosing a significant archeological, mining and ecological park, with interesting flora (example the Lavrio centauria which grows in this area only) and fauna as well as peculiar rock formations, left behind by thousands of mining years.
The center of Lavrion. Visitors can admire the architecture of the neoclassical buildings (end of 19th century to start of 20th), such as the old Primary School (1901-1902), currently undergoing major renovation, which has recently housed the Lavrion philharmonic band. The statue of J.B.Serpieri (at the start of the central square) is the work of sculptor G. Vroutos. The old Town Hall former hotel “Britain” (today it is the Citizen’s Advisory office and Historical Archives of Lavrio. The building of Art lovers was constructed by the Greek Company 1885-6 and it accommodated the philharmonic band «Orpheus» (today it’s the Cultural Centre of Lavrio). The sculpture dedicated to Lavrio Mine workers at the end of the square across from the Serpieri statue is by sculptor K. Valsamakis and the unveiling was in April 2004. The fish market, a group of buildings in the form of a «Π» with a fountain in the middle, stone-paved with marbles from Agrileza was constructed in 1885 by the Greek Company. The war memorial of Lavrio was created in the factories of Kotzamaki brothers and put up in 1914.
Lavrion port or otherwise Porto laboratories with the various renovated neo-classical buildings, amongst which the current Town Hall, that served as the management offices of the Italian-French company. The main workshop of the Greek Mining Company, used to repair and maintain steam engines, railways and furnaces, currently transformed into a conference and meeting centre, including a children library. The Greek Company Foundry (today is used as the Cultural Centre of the town). The Clock building (1870-1880) was the porter’s lodge of the Greek Company. The Greek company’s chemical laboratories’ today housing the Lavrion Port Authority (OLL). The sculpture of a woman (representing a mother, wife and daughter) by M. Kassis, staring in agony over the fate of all political prisoners, sent to the concentration camps of the long island (Makronissos), 2,5 nautical miles from the port’s entrance (following the 1946-1953 civil war). The Wharf constructed by the French Company at the port in 1888, enabling loading and unloading of the ships, remains a living landmark of the town’s recent history.