The House of the Mosaics officially opens in Sparta - Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The House of the Mosaics officially opens in Sparta
09 NOVEMBER 2022

The official opening of the House of the Mosaics in Sparta took place on Monday, November 21 with an event organized as part of the collaboration between the nonprofit organization Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

The opening of the House of the Mosaics represents is an important new chapter in the city’s history and puts two stunning Roman mosaics on display for all to appreciate: The Abduction of Europa and Orpheus with the Animals.

The president of the Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta and visionary behind the project, Ioannis Varvitsiotis, welcomed people to the event, saying, “Μy effort, my struggle lasted not a few—almost eight—years. At some point during that process, while discussing the project with SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, he encouraged me and said that we have his full support. And thanks to SNF, and following a little extra support from the Leventis Foundation, the effort had officially started, and now we are in a position to be here and admire it.”

Among the speakers, SNF Board of Directors member George Agouridis delivered remarks on behalf of the Foundation and its Co-President, Andreas Dracopoulos. He said, in part, “We often talk about the power of working together and how much we can accomplish collectively. Today is an opportunity to celebrate the power of the one—the individual—something we don’t get to do often.... To showcase the strength, determination, courage and, allow me to say, the modern-day quixotic grit of a man who chose to fight a battle that, in most people’s eyes, looked like a battle against windmills.... As you may have already realized, we are of course talking about Mr. Ioannis Varvitsiotis. And on that note, I would like to convey the personal thanks of Mr. Dracopoulos, as a citizen of Greece, to Mr. Varvitsiotis, not only for this project, but for everything he has offered over the years for the good of our country.”

Read the full speech

The event was attended by the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr. Konstantinos Tasoulas; His Eminence Efstathios, the Metropolitan of the Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta; the Regional Governor of the Peloponnese, Panagiotis Nikas; the Mayor of Sparta, Petros Doukas; the Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture, Georgios Didaskalou; other political and cultural representatives; and a large crowd.

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This important project for the city of Sparta was made possible through the efforts of Ioannis Varvitsiotis and support from SNF. The licensing study for the project was funded by a grant from the A.G. Leventis Foundation, and approval of the study and supervision of the project was carried out by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports

The House of the Mosaics in Sparta houses the mosaics The Abduction of Europa and Orpheus with the Animals, which were discovered by accident in 1872 and 1890, respectively, the former in the garden and the latter in the wine cellar of private properties. To protect and showcase these elaborate Roman floors crafted at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th centuries, the land where they were discovered was expropriated and a shelter was constructed. Despite their historical significance and archaeological interest, they remained hidden for years in what was effectively an informal warehouse for mosaics. Then, approximately 20 years ago after a chance conversation with a local man, they came to the attention of retired public servant Ioannis Varvitsiotis. Fascinated by their beauty, which shone through in spite of the dust that covered them, Varvitsiotis made it his life’s work to bring them back to light, securing them the place they deserve on Sparta’s cultural scene.

In 2015, Varvitsiotis crossed paths with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and specifically with SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, who immediately understood the importance of his vision. A grant from SNF supported a study for the project, then the construction and outfitting of the modern building that houses the two mosaics and the development of educational content to contextualize them.

The House of Mosaics opened its doors to the public on Monday, May 17, 2021. Since then, it has welcomed more than 8,000 visitors.