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"Protection of the Holy Churches from the seismic danger"


Address in the Conference on March 10, 2004 on the same topic, held at the War Museum, Athens

The problem of damage caused to the Holy Churches by earthquakes in our country has led us to the conclusion that emphasis must be laid upon the sectors of prevention and readiness, so that disasters be avoided. Taking the appropriate advance measures can reduce unfavourable consequences, so that interventions can be timely and effective.

The phenomenon of earthquakes and its implications for technical constructions are studied widely in our country by specialised scientists ―geologists, seismologists, civil engineers, among others―, who are qualified to draw up relevant studies on the protection and preservation of constructions more generally. The cooperation of church-builders with these specialised scientists can lead to the introduction of appropriate measures of prevention and reduction of seismic damage, as well as to the implementation of post-seismic rescue interventions in our Holy Churches ― these utility monuments of our cultural heritage.

The effects of seismic activity are distinguished into direct and indirect. Direct effects, other than the death or injury of people, are geological or soil alterations, hydrological alterations, and all kinds of damage caused to technical and constructed works. As indirect effects are regarded the fires caused by damages in constructions, the accidents or material catastrophes caused by panic, and finally the economic, social and physical consequences.

Damages to buildings such as Holy Churches, Cultural Centres, Museums, Charity Foundations and ecclesiastical edifices more generally, depend on numerous factors, such as the qualities of the seismic focus (magnitude of the earthquake), the qualities of the medium of transmission of the seismic waves from the focus of the earthquake to the place of the building (distance, rate of attenuation of seismic waves), the qualities of the soil in which the edifice has been founded and the qualities of the edifice itself (height, elasticity, properties of materials and construction, ageing of the construction, subsequent interventions compromising the soundness of the initial construction, etc.).

Geologically speaking, the area of Greece is found above the borders of contact and convergence between the Eurasian and the African lithospheric plates, resulting in a particularly intense tectonic activity. Our country, although it occupies the sixth place worldwide, among all the countries of Western Eurasia (i.e. Europe and West Asia), in terms of seismicity, does not display the respective degree of seismic risk.

The aim of our Scientific One-day Conference today is to contribute to the approach of the issue of dealing with the damage caused by earthquakes to humans and monuments, by focusing on the precautionary and first rescue measures for the protection and preservation of church-goers, our faithful, but also of monuments, frescoes, mosaics, Holy Icons and generally ecclesiastic objects.

In cooperation with the local Most Rev. Hierarchs, we intend to set up an electronic record of all Holy Churches, but also of the churches struck by earthquakes and the problems related to them, by assessing their structural needs and at the same time by investigating the possibility of funding these needs from European Projects.

As you may see in the Programme of today’s Conference, three scientists of acknowledged authority have been invited to present their positions on this interesting issue: Mr Konstantinos Makropoulos, Professor of Seismology, will speak to us of “The seismic problem of Greece”; Mrs Sali, architect and archaeologist, will talk about “Seismic Readiness in places of gathering of public”, places among which our Holy Churches are numbered, and finally Mr Panayiotis Karydis, Professor of Anti-Seismic Technology, who will expound the subject “Anti-Seismic Protection of the Holy Churches”. I would like to thank them for their response to our invitation and for the labour they put into depositing their knowledge and their suggestions to this Conference for the appropriate solution of the problem.

Let me therefore declare the commencement of this Conference and express my fatherly blessings for this endeavour by wishing every success in its aims.

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