The New European Empress Theophano Prize is awarded for the first time to the student exchange programme of the European Union, ERASMUS.

European Commission President Ms. Ursula von der Leyen is expected in Thessaloniki to receive the award on 7 October 2020.

You may watch the Ceremony Award (Wednesday 7th October 2020 | 17:30 CET, 18:30 EET) HERE

With Thessaloniki at its heart, a new award of pan-European status and scope has been instituted, the Empress Theophano Prize.

With the symbolic selection of the name of Byzantine Empress Theophano — whose contribution was critical in the cultural rebirth of the Western European region — and with the Rotunda for the Award Ceremony —a landmark monument signifying the Roman, Byzantine, Orthodox, Ottoman, and Greek influence on the shaping of Europe — the award aims to:

· Reward individuals or organisations for their contribution to the understanding and strengthening of the modern European Idea;

· Promote, at this crucial juncture, the recognition of the common heritage shared by different geographic areas of Europe and the historic interdependence of its peoples, as well as their importance to current European cooperation and the relations of Europe with its neighbouring cultures;

· Underline and highlight the contributions of the parties receiving the prize, broadening our understanding of the European Union, European cooperation, and our common roots in history.

The idea of the prize emerged from prominent European personalities who, looking back at the historical and geographical roots of Europe, focus their attentions to promoting the contemporary European identity and our shared historic European principles and values. The Empress Theophano Prize is set to be presented annually by the Theophano Foundation in the form of a distinction not linked to a monetary award, following the evaluation of candidates by the two main bodies of the Foundation: the Advisory and the Governing Councils, chaired by the Honorary President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Herman Count Van Rompuy, and the Chairman of the Cultural Society of Entrepreneurs of Northern Greece, Mr. Stavros Andreadis, respectively.

In an era when there is an ever-increasing need for mutual understanding between the different peoples that compose present-day Europe, the ‘Empress Theophano’ Prize promotes European cooperation, the importance of education and culture, and equality between races and peoples. The Advisory and Governing Councils of the Theophano Foundation chose to dignify these fundamental values through the awarding of the inaugural prize to an institution that expresses the ideal of European cooperation and mobility in practice, while effectively strengthening mutual understanding through the young people at the core of the very future of Europe:  the student exchange programme of the European Union, ERASMUS.

Bearing the name of Dutch philosopher Erasmus, an opponent of dogmatism, who lived and worked in several places in Europe in an attempt to broaden his knowledge and understanding, the ERASMUS institution is directly connected to mobility and to the experience of young people in different European countries. Thirty-three years after its foundation and having served more than 9 million participants, the ERASMUS programme contributes to shaping the European citizens of tomorrow; those who, by experiencing the programme, are able to comprehend how the individual historic and cultural differentiations of Europe are part of a wider geographical and cultural unit expressed by means of our common European identity, of the idea of unified Europe, and of the cooperation of its peoples.

In recognition of the importance of the ‘Empress Theophano’ Prize, as well as the significance of the winner, the ERASMUS institution, to the future of European cooperation, the award will be presented by the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen at a distinguished Award Ceremony to be held on Wednesday 7 October 2020, at the monument of the Rotunda and in the presence of Greece’s Prime Minister, Mr. Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Their presence at the first Award Ceremony further underlines the value of the Prize, as well as the key role of Thessaloniki and Greece in European Culture and the modern European Idea.

The Ceremony will be held under the patronage of H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic, Ms. Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

The Governing Council


Stavros Andreadis
Chairman, SANI/IKOS Group
Chairman, Cultural Society of Entrepreneurs of Northern Greece (GR)


Nikolaos Efthymiadis
Chairman, EFTHYMIADIS Agrotechnology Group
Honorary Chairman, Federation of Greek Industries (GR)

Evangelos Gerovassiliou
Chairman, Gerovassiliou Wines (GR)

Constantinos Gleoudis
Chairman, KAVEX
Member of the Board, Hellenic Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage (GR)

Theodoros Ikonomou
Chairman, Greek Forest Property Association
Head of a forest management and wood production firm (GR)

Nada Korac Kakabadse
Professor of Policy, Governance and Ethics, Henley Business School, University of Reading (UK)

Vassos Konstantinidis
Chairman, INART (GR)

George Mylonas
Chairman, ALUMIL Group (GR)

Sonja Puntscher-Riekmann
Professor Emeritus of Political Theory and European Politics, University of Salzburg (AT)

Stefan Schepers
Secretary General, High Level Groups on Policy Innovation (BE)

The Advisory Council


Herman Van Rompuy
President Emeritus of the European Council
Former Minister of State of Belgium (BE)


Mary McAleese
Former President of Ireland | Professor of Children, Religion and Law, University Glasgow (IRL)

Leonie Bell
Trustee Edinburgh International Festival, director Victoria & Albert Museum Dundee (UK)

Nikiforos Diamandouros
Former European Ombudsman (GR)

Élisabeth Guigou
President, Anna Lindh Foundation | Former Secretary of State (F)

Tarja Halonen
Former President of Finland

Agnieszka Holland
Author and film director (PL)

Praet Michel
Vice-President Museum of European History (BE)

Maria Luisa Poncela
Former Secretary of State (ES)

Georges Prevelakis
Professor Emeritus, Paris-Sorbonne University (FR) 

Sir Ivan Rogers
Former UK Ambassador to the EU (UK)

Chiara Saraceno
Honorary fellow Collegio Alberto, University of Turin (IT)

Vassilios Skouris
Former President, European Court of Justice of the EU (GR)

Karl Prince zu Schwarzenberg
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (CZ)

Rita Süssmuth
Former President of the German Parliament (DE)

Panos Tzonos
Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (GR)

Luuk Van Middelaar
Professor of EU Foundations and Institutions, University of Leiden (NL)


The emblematic monument of Thessaloniki, was constructed in the early 4th century AD, on the turning point between the pagan with the Christian world, probably as a temple for ancient cult worship or as a mausoleum for Constantine the Great (306-337). This circular, domed building measures 29.80 meters in height, 24.50 meters in diameter, its walls are 6.30 meters thick and can only be compared architecturally to the Pantheon in Rome. Not long after it was built and during the early years of the long-lived Byzantine Empire (330-1453), the Rotunda was turned into a Christian church with the addition of a sanctuary on its eastern side. The interior was decorated with Early Byzantine (4th- 6th c. AD) wall mosaics of unique artistry and beauty. It was Thessaloniki’s cathedral church (metropolis) between 1524 and 1591, the year in which it was converted to a mosque by the Ottoman conquerors. It remained in use as a mosque until the city’s liberation in 1912. Its dedication since that time to Saint George (Agios Georgios) is owing to the small neighboring church of this name. The mosaic decoration of the Rotunda is a masterpiece of Late Antique art.

Text source:

Photo credits: Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki City.

with the support of

The Ceremony is realized with the support of