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Press Office

Athens, 22 March 2021

President of French National Assembly offers “School of Athens” tapestry to Hellenic Parliament on occasion of bicentennial of Greek Revolution

“Today the Hellenic Parliament welcomes in the colonnaded lobby (“Peristylion”) the most artistically and diplomatically significant work of art ever offered  to this Parliament”, underlined the President of the Parliament, Constantine Tassoulas, after the  18th century “School of Athens” tapestry was hung on a wall of the Hellenic Parliament, which it will adorn as of today, following an offer by the President of the French National Assembly, a gesture of honour for our country on the occasion of the 200 years since the Greek Revolution.   

 “The School of Athens symbolises our commitment to Democracy, it reminds our Western Democracies of everything they owe to Greek Democracy”, stressed the French Ambassador, Patrick Maisonnave.

As noted by the President of the Parliament, it is the first time since it was created, in 1775, at the renowned Gobelins Manufactory in Paris, that this particular tapestry leaves France, but “returns to Athens, the School of which city it depicts with such artistry”.

This monumental artwork, which according to experts “embodies perfectly the classical spirit”, has been hung on a wall of the Parliament’s colonnaded lobby facing the main entrance of the Plenary Hall, surrounded by important portraits of figures of the Greek Enlightenment and European Philhellenes who supported the liberation of the Greek people, will be one of the magnificent displays of the Parliament’s Exhibition on the two centuries of a free Greek State.

Standing before the magnificent tapestry, depicting the great philosophers of Greek antiquity, the President of the Parliament stated: “Today, in the presence of H.E. the Ambassador of our friend, the country of France, Mr. Patrick Maisonnave, the Parliament, three days ahead of the exact day marking two centuries since the outbreak of our National Revolution in 1821, welcomes in the colonnaded lobby the most artistically and diplomatically significant work of art ever offered to the Hellenic Parliament.

I wish to express my gratitude and pleasure to the President of the French National Assembly, Richard Ferrand, who offered us this magnificent tapestry depicting the "School of Athens”, the ancient Greek philosophers. This tapestry, initially created in 1775 by the renowned Gobelins Manufactory, leaves France. It leaves France, but in a sense it returns to Athens, it returns to the city the School of which it depicts with such artistry.

This representation of Greek philosophers, which adorns the official residence of the President of the French National Assembly and the Assembly itself, can be found in its original form as a fresco in the Vatican, a work by the great painter of the Renaissance, Raphael. The whole idea during the Renaissance to decorate the palace of the Vatican with ancient Greek philosophers stems from the belief at the time that Christian teachings were in full harmony with ancient Greek philosophy. This was the spirit of the educated people of the Renaissance.

The French National Assembly hosts this work of art to show that it aspires, as any Parliament would, that its decisions be made under the auspices of such great minds, as were the ancient Greek philosophers.

The Hellenic Parliament participates in the celebration for the 200 years since the country’s liberation with an Exhibition, part of which will be presented here, at the colonnaded lobby, and it is linked to the admiration of classical antiquity – the tapestry proves that – it is linked to the Enlightenment and the awakening of the Greek people. 

It is here, in the Peristylion, therefore, that we see the awakening of the Greeks. Because the Enlightenment linked Antiquity to then modern Greece, which was to remain subjugated a little while longer. 

On the upstairs floor, in the Eleftherios Venizelos Hall, we will present military, political and diplomatic instances of the Revolution. And we will present them as the result of this preparation through the Enlightenment, through the admiration of classical antiquity and through the awakening. 

Our Exhibition will be inaugurated on 19 April, in the presence of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the political parties. 

So today, we welcome this outstanding tapestry, in its first journey beyond France, but not to foreign lands. It came to Athens, so that we may seek to achieve in our Parliament, what Plato sought and considered an example of good governance, when he said that “either the kings will philosophise or the philosophers will govern”. Let’s see, therefore, whether this tapestry, with all of its philosophers, will help us – as I am convinced it will – have better discussions and better results in this very space. 

Happy anniversary to all on this unique occasion that we will be celebrating in three days. Thank you to France, the French National Assembly, for this friendly and important gesture.”

For his part, the Ambassador of France in Greece, Patrick Maisonnave, stated: “We all understand that we are witnessing a unique moment with the celebration of the 200-year anniversary of the Greek Revolution.

This gesture by the President of the French National Assembly makes me very happy because, at the end of the day, at this very moment, the "School of Athens” is present both in the French National Assembly and here, in the heart of the Hellenic Parliament. And as the President rightly said, this “School of Athens”, as we see it, symbolises our full commitment to Democracy, it is a reminder of everything our Western Democracies owe to Greek Democracy. And as we see in the tapestry ancient Greek philosophers exchanging views, we realise the extent to which your nation, your country contributed to Western civilisation all those points of reference that we use today, speech, dialogue, the exchange of views, that are the deep elements of our Democracy. And I believe that in the world that we live in today, it is worth remembering that Greece is the birthplace of these values, and not only have they offered so much to our civilisations, but they will continue to fuel tomorrow’s Republics. 

It is an exquisite work of art and what joy for the French authorities, for the President of the Assembly, what joy for me that today this artwork is finding its place here for the celebrations of the bicentennial.
I thank you, the Hellenic Parliament and the Greek people for upholding such a strong bond of friendship between the two peoples. And this under the watchful eye of François-René de Chateaubriand, a great philhellene”.

The tapestry, travelled to the Hellenic Parliament from the official Residence of the President of the French National Assembly in Paris. It is a faithful representation of the one hanging in the Plenary Hall of the Assembly, above the President’s seat. It was woven at the end of the 18th century at the Gobelin Manufactory and it was inspired by the “School of Athens” mural by the Italian High Renaissance artist, Raphael, which is found at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. It measures 7,95 meters wide and 4,5 meters high and depicts ancient Greek philosophers and scientists, such as Archimedes and Pythagoras, while at the centre we see Plato and Artistotle in conversation. The symbolism of the piece focuses on the search for truth. Raphael himself marked the words “Causarum Cognitio” above it, i.e. “Seek knowledge of causes”.

Video available here (in Greek).











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