Strolling along the marina in Piraeus, Athens your eyes are generally drawn to the fishing boats gently bobbing in the water or the cafes and restaurants that are abuzz with activity. For most, the architecture isn’t at all exciting. It’s predominantly a mix of modern structures that lack personality or inspiration. But one building in amongst the low-rise apartment complexes catches the eye – The neoclassical masterpiece that houses the historic library of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation. Behind the walls of this beautiful structure is an equally stunning collection of books, maps, manuscripts and artefacts that has been painstakingly collected and catalogued over decades and has subsequently been made available to the public.
As a tourist you could be forgiven for being largely unaware of it. Despite how incredible and unique the assortment of wonders inside are, it’s not a heavily promoted site. That said, its purpose is largely centred around the retention and preservation of important antiquities, particularly those relating to Greek arts, maritime tradition and history. There’s also a strong educational component of the foundation, with frequent educational activities and programs, plus lectures, conferences, meetings and other events. On the shelves of the library are many marvels, from incunabula and antiquarian exploration titles, to first editions of the Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey, any bibliophile would be gobsmacked!
Beyond the books is a vast collection dedicated to Lord Admiral Nelson. Amongst a myriad of paintings, seascapes and engravings, it also consists of some 82 autograph letters, personal items, newspapers commemorating Nelson’s victories, plus in excess of 1,500 books on the Napoleonic wars and Nelson himself. However one of the major highlights for us was the collection of around 30 warship models constructed of ivory or bone by French prisoners of the Napoleonic wars. These items form part of the foundation’s maritime collection, which is a subject close to our heart.
For more information on The Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation click here!