Old Museum - St. Mark's Square
In 1882, on the initiative of the Zakynthian amateur historian Panayotis Chiotis, a first archaeological collection was created. Towards the end of 1908 the Museum of Medieval and Byzantine Antiquities was founded, which was housed in a rented building. This small collection was enriched significantly by the Museums’ first curator, Evangelos Kolokotsas, and by his successor in 1917, the schoolmaster Nikolaos Lambropoulos, who gathered together many works of art from half-ruined churches and the Kastro (castle) of Zakynthos. In 1919 the Bishop of Zakynthos, Dionysios Plaisas, made over the Pantokrator church in St. Mark’s square, to accommodate the museum. By 1927 the church and an adjacent storeroom housed over one hundred icons, many woodcarved sanctuary doors and closure panels, church plate etc.
In 1952 the museum was transferred to the building of the Venetian Pawnshop, the Monte, on the ground floor of which was the precious Historical Archive of Zakynthos. The Monte was one of the first buildings to be consumed in the fire following the earthquake and tragically works of art of inestimable value were lost forever. Over one hundred churches with architectural features influenced by the Italian Renaissance and Baroque, but in which the Greek sense of measure and scale prevailed, were lost irrevocably. Most of them had been renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries and were adorned with exquisite works of art and accompanied by tall belltowers, a characteristic feature of the town’ aspect.
For two months Manolis Chatzidakis, Ephor of Antiquities and Director and Director of the Benaki Museum, led the arduous and dangerous task of rescuing the island’s art treasures, who had gathered and stored at the 3rd Primary School of Ammos. In June 1960 he chose paintings of post-Byzantine art and with the assistance of the curator of Byzantine Antiquities Nikolao Drandaki and the conservator of the National Gallery Kosta Koutsouri, with a team of restorers, craftsmen, carpenters, woodcarvers etc., took care of images, paintings, woodcarvings and assembled the elaborate temples. Thus, the significant artistic value artworks were placed in the newly formed building and constituted the permanent exhibition of the Museum. The new Museum was opened on 24 August 1960, the feast day of the island’s patron saint, Dionysios.