Collection: An Introduction

The collection of the Museum of Byzantine Culture numbers more than 46,000 ancient (until 1830) movable monuments and works of modern and contemporary art, which date from the 2nd up to the 20th century. Mostly composed of the ancient collection initially of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Macedonia and later of the former 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, part of which the Museum formed until 1997. They originate mainly from excavations (systematic or rescue) from collections, confiscations, bequests, donations (from 1958), or were purchased by state funds or private sponsorships. Strictly in numbers, the larger part of the collection consists of coins, stamps and miniature artifacts, followed by sculptures and icons. The artifacts mainly come from Thessaloniki and Macedonia, from churches or other public and private buildings, as well as from the cemeteries. Particularly important are the collections that come from the bequests of Dimitrios Oikonomopoulos and Dori Papastratou, the Museum’s two major donors. The Dori Papastratou collection of engravings is one of the most important collections of this kind in the world. Moreover, the Museum has and exhibits the richest collection of funerary mural painting (3rd-8th c.) in Greece and one of the most interesting in the Mediterranean area. Glass vessels of exquisite quality, domestic and imported, bear witness to the commercial contacts in the Mediterranean area. Of particular importance is the collection of icons, which includes unique works of major painters of the 16th-17th c., but also masterpieces of the Palaiologan painting of the 14th century. Although limited in number, the collection of manuscripts includes a series of parchments codices of utmost historical, paleographic and artistic value. A series of rare textiles and clothing of the early Byzantine period, originating in Egypt, are long-term loans from the Benaki Museum. The collection of modern and contempory works of art comprises works by Spyros Papaloukas, Polykleitos Rengos and Nikos Alexiou, which were donated to the Museum. Of particular importance are a series of replicas of early Christian funerary murals and mosaics (Rotunda) by the painter Christos Lefakis. The artifacts of the Museum collection travel to temporary exhibitions that are organized both in Greece and abroad.