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Fun facts about Laconia you didn’t know of until today from SNF

Most people who have heard of Laconia know it because of Sparta and its history, the Battle of Thermopylae with Leonidas and the 300 Spartans; its spectacular mountains, Taygetos and Parnon; the wild, natural beauty of Mani; its fragrant oranges and its excellent olive oil.

But Laconia is much more than that. It is a place simultaneously packed with history and full of potential, with myriad hidden facets that are worth getting to know better.

Though our work is global, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) shares a special bond with Laconia as the place where our founder, Stavros S. Niarchos, had his roots, and we are proud to support a suite of projects in the region under the banner of our Laconia Initiative.

We invite you to join us on a virtual tour of Laconia and the various projects to which we have lent support.

Vamvakou Revival

Let’s start in Vamvakou, a village located on the western slopes of Mount Parnon, which, until a few years ago, had only nine permanent residents. For the past five years, an effort to revive the village has been underway, initiated by four friends with roots in Vamvakou—like our founder—and with our creative cooperation and support. Now, thanks to Vamvakou Revival’s efforts, there are about 29 permanent residents living in the village.

What we have supported:

  • The construction, renovation, and outfitting of village infrastructure: the school, two guesthouses, a restaurant-café, community offices, a playground, hiking trails, and more
  • The implementation of educational and cultural programs
  • Strengthening the agri-food sector and supporting local cooperatives and producers
  • Strengthening the tourism and business sectors to help create jobs
The revival of Vamvakou is a very ambitious project which, we believe, expresses a collective need, today perhaps more than ever, to return to our roots with respect and hope.
Andreas Dracopoulos
SNF Co-President

Archaeological Museum of Sparta

Our tour continues with Sparta, the capital of Laconia, as our next stop. It is home to the Archaeological Museum of Sparta, the first archaeological museum built in Greece outside Athens, which is home to a significant collection of ancient objects. In collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, we are supporting the expansion of the museum and the creation of a new SNF Wing, for which internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano has undertaken its design. Our support also includes the restoration and maintenance of the museum garden.   

What we have supported:

  • The construction and outfitting of the museum’s new Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Wing
  • The restoration and enhancement of the museum garden and its maintenance for 20 years
  • Innovative architectural design by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano
  • A study for the renovation of the existing museum building

In collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture

House of Mosaics

Just steps from the Archaeological Museum of Sparta is the House of Mosaics, which hosts two internationally renowned mosaics: The Abduction of Europa and Orpheus with the Animals, which were created between the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century BCE. SNF has also supported the effort to protect and showcase the mosaics, a project initiated by and implemented thanks to the vision of former Minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis, President of the nonprofit Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta. The House of Mosaics started welcoming visitors in May 2021.

What we have supported:

  • The construction of a building to protect and showcase the mosaics
  • The procurement of technological equipment
  • The development of educational material

In partnership with the nonprofit organization Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta, the Ministry of Culture and the A. G. Leventis Foundation

A range of excavations made while building new houses have revealed more than 1,400 mosaics in Sparta that are secured by the archeological service. This museum will mark the start of promoting them.
Ioannis Varvitsiotis
Former Minister & President of the Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta

School of Byzantine Music & Hagiography

Staying in Sparta, we travel next into the near future, to Felias Street, where the new School of Byzantine Music and Hagiography will officially open in 2025. Our collaboration with the Holy Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta and the Metropolitan of Monemvasia and Sparta, Efstathios, for the construction and outfitting of the School of Byzantine Music and Hagiography launched in April 2019, following a visit by SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos and representatives of the Foundation to the region. The School is expected to welcome approximately 240 students per year.

What we have supported:

  • The design, construction, and outfitting of building facilities

In partnership with the Holy Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta

New SNF General Hospital of Sparta

Flying further ahead into the future, to the end of 2027, the new SNF  General Hospital of Sparta will start welcoming its first patients. The hospital will exclusively feature single and double rooms with access to gardens, with the goal of improving the healing process. The hospital staff, the patients, and their families will enjoy the benefits of natural light and open views of the mountains, the lush greenery, and the beauty of the Laconian landscape.

As part of our Global Health Initiative (GHI), SNF is supporting the design, construction, and outfitting of the new public SNF General Hospital of Sparta in an effort to strengthen health services for adults, young people, and children in Sparta, Laconia, and the wider region. The development of the hospital reflects a vision shared between SNF and Renzo Piano to create model hospitals for the future, in accordance with forward-looking environmental standards and focusing on the needs of patients and their caregivers. 

What we have supported:

  • An implementation study and construction
  • The design, construction, and outfitting of the hospital
  • Innovative architectural design by internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano

In partnership with the Hellenic Ministry of Health

Inspired by the Asclepeions and the importance attached to the environment for treating a patient, the aim is to create the most beautiful environment possible. Instead of the word ‘beautiful,’ allow me to use here the ancient Greek term ‘kalos kagathos’ (beautiful and good), as it best reflects the philosophy of designing an ideal space for healing and recovery, and not just one of high aesthetic value.
Renzo Piano
Chairman, Founding Partner & Architect, Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)

More projects in the Laconia area

These are only a few of the infrastructure projects and activities we have supported in the region over the years. Our grantmaking in Laconia encompasses more than 50 grants, including for the restoration of the ancient theater of Sparta, as well as renovations and the procurement of equipment for schools and universities in the region and the Sparta Fire Department.

Knowing all this, don’t you think it’s time to get to know Laconia, Vamvakou, and all of the sites in Sparta and beyond up close and personal?