Veria is one of the few cities with unfailing presence in Greek history; it has also kept its name, since the 5th century B.C., when it is reported by Thucydides for the first time. It has gone through long periods of acme, as the eminent archaeological discoveries, the preserved monuments and the complexes reveal.
Nevertheless, the monuments and the archaeological sites from the Hellenistic until the Early Christian times – times of particular flourishing – are meagre. Big public buildings, elaborate mosaic floorings that covered big parts in the city inside the walls, and paved streets were either subsided, or detached, in the case of mosaics, or are nowadays saved in the basement of blocks of flats.
Thus, today the only visible and accessible places from that time are the Roman tower at the entrance of the city, the few traces of the Roman road, where supposedly Apostle Paul walked on his way to the “Vema”, the memorial commemorating his preaching to the locals in 54 AD, and the archaeological site of Aghios Patapios. According to the announcement made by the Director of 11th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, Mr. A. Petkos, recent excavations in the area of Aghios Ioannis site revealed the ruins of an important church cluster that consists of two basilica temples of the 4th and 5th century, a public bath of the 4th century and a network of pipes for the water supply of the city.
This cluster is found within a small distance from the archaeological site of Aghios Patapios. The two big temples, of the same era, at a small distance from each other, indicate, among other things, the Christian faith and the devotion of the inhabitants of Veria at that period of time; the faith that was kept alive until today, judging by the large number of churches that were preserved from the 11th century onwards. It also indicates that this area must have been the religious centre of the city.
We have been informed that a modern temple of large proportions will be built over the ruins of this temple. The foundation of the new temple, according to the building and antiseismic regulations, will result to the partial destruction of the discoveries, and thus, once more, the city will miss the opportunity to show its history.
We would expect that the institutions who are mostly involved, the Holy Metropolis of Veria, Naousa and Campania and the 11th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities (EBA), would join forces for the preservation and promotion of such an important archaeological site, thus connecting their names with the city in perpetuity. We would expect that the 11th EBA would strive for the expropriation of the site. We would also expect that the Holy Metropolis would propose the preservation and the enhancement of this temple. The place does not lose its sanctity. With the appropriate formations and light shelters, the Mass and church ceremonies could take place in the open.
People could still practice their religion in the temples that are situated in a small distance and are rarely used. The Municipality could upgrade the faces of the surrounding buildings, which are especially downgraded today. In this way, the city would gain a new cultural route that would link the archaeological sites of Aghios Patapios and Aghios Ioannis and via the Roman road would lead to the “Vema” of Apostle Paul, thus strengthening not only the religious and cultural tourism, but also the historical conscience of the inhabitants of Veria.
Such serious issues, concerning the public space and the cultural heritage, require to be dealt with dialogue and after consideration by all the institutions and all citizens. The Local Committee of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and the Cultural Heritage aims, with this publication, to open this dialogue, so that all together, united, we can find the best solution for our city and history.