THE PIERIDES FAMILY
The Pierides family, great merchants from Zakynthos, first came to Cyprus in 1758, by Edict of the Doge of Venice. Since then, nine generations of the family have lived in Larnaca. Natives of the Heptanese, Pietro Corella and his son Demetrios, served as Consuls of Venice and Dragomans, as did Demetrios’s son Pierakis, who was captured by the Ottoman’s and beheaded on 10 July 1821 following the martyrdom of Archbishop Kyprianos and the Bishops, in their attempt to prevent the 1821 Greek Revolution against Ottoman Rule from spreading to Cyprus. The last word spoken by Pierakis “εμμένειν” (never surrender) and the sycamore tree from which the Turks hung his body, constitute the emblem of the Pierides Foundation.
Pierakis married Mariou Caridi, descendant of a noble family of Cefallonia. Barons Caridi were included in the Gold Book of the Nobility in 1593. The family is described at length by distinguished genealogists such as Mugnos of Rome, Cicelli, Rizo-Rangabe, and even by Julius Caesar (101-44 BC) in his Commentaries, in which he refers to them as a family of great army Generals who distinguished themselves in ancient Rome.
Demetrios Pierides, first-born son of Pierakis (1811-1895) studied Literature and History in England. On completion of his studies, he was invited by the Governor of the newly-established Hellenic State, Ioannis Capodistrias, to move to Ermoupolis, capital of the island of Syros, the most prosperous city and port in Greece at that time, in order to help shape the post-revolutionary education system.
On his return to Cyprus, Demetrios displayed great interest in ancient Epigraphy and passed on his valuable knowledge to countless scholars and researchers of Cypriot Archaeology and History to whom he was known as “the wise Greek”. At the same time he would collect ancient artefacts, thereby preventing their illegal export to Europe and America.
He was a renowned banker, parliamentarian, and Vice-Consul of Great Britain.He divided his rich archaeological collection between his two sons, Zenon D. Pierides (1839-1911), founder in 1860 of the Shipping, Banking and Insurance Firm of the same name, and Gabriel-Cyprael (Giabra) (1852-1928), scholar, antiquities-collector and parliamentarian. In 1900, Zenon became the first Greek Mayor of Larnaca. He also served as a Parliamentarian, Chancellor of the Consulate of the United States of America, Consul of the United Kingdom of Sweden and Norway, and Consul of Imperial Germany.
When Norway seceded in 1906, its Consulate in Cyprus was assigned to his brother Gabriel-Cyprael (Giabra) Pierides. The family has represented the two countries since 1892 and continues to do so.
Z.D. Pierides was succeeded by his sons Loukis and Demetrios. The elder, Loukis Z. Pierides (1865-1933), was a man of culture and wit, a lover of antiquity, a writer, historian and politician. He served as Consul of Germany and Sweden, as well as as a member of Parliament. He enhanced the family’s archaeological collection with a large number of remarkable works of ancient Cypriot art. His efforts led to the arrival in Cyprus of the 1927-1931 Swedish Archaeological Expedition, which was joined, in its final stages, by King Gustav VI - Adolf - then Crown Prince - with whom Loukis Pierides enjoyed a long-standing friendship.
The Expedition resulted in a monumental and scientifically-documented archaeological opus.
The younger son Demetrios Z. Pierides (1870-1943), became a renown banker, and served the Austrian government as its Consul in Cyprus.
The tradition was carried forward by Demetrios’s son, Zenon D. Pierides (1900-1967), to whom belonged the most significant collection of Hellenistic and Roman iridescent glassware.
Zenon Pierides, a man of versatile action and broad public spirit, held office as German Consul, Consul General of Sweden, Deputy Speaker of the Greek Communal Assembly, Mayor of Larnaca and Chairman of a large number of charitable, professional and sports foundations and associations.
His wife, Theodora (1903-1998), daughter of doctor Aristodemos Phoiniefs, Deputy Mayor of Nicosia, nephew of Archbishop Sophronis III, and one of the founders of the Bank of Cyprus (1899), served as President of the Pierides Foundation since its establishment in 1974 up to 1990, at which time she became Honorary President. The creation of the Collection of Cypriot Folk Art and its continual enhancement are the result of her efforts.
The collections were currently cared for and enriched with many new exhibits by Demetrios, son of Zenon and Theodora Pierides, who set up the Pierides Foundation in 1974 in memory of his ancestors. He donated the family collections to the Foundation, in order to ensure for them a permanent home.
The Founder made sure that the Government of Cyprus would be represented on the Board of Directors of the Pierides Foundation, by specifying that the Board’s Deputy Chairman should be the Director of the Department of Antiquities. Larnaca residents are represented on the Board by the town’s Mayor.
In August 2000, the Pierides Foundation and the Laiki Group set up a Trust to which the Foundation donated the Archaeological and Medieval collections, the old Cartography collections and the Library. The Laiki Group purchased and placed in the Trust the Pierides mansion and its surroundings gardens in Larnaca, which was built in 1825.
The common goal of the two parties to the Trust is to preserve the collections in their natural environment, to maintain the exhibits, to display them in the present museum, and to enhance the collections and keep the Library updated.