ATHENS – Hundreds of people, some carrying flowers, gathered Monday at Athens Cathedral to pay their final respects to Greek composer and politician Mikis Theodorakis, who was an integral part of the Greek political and musical scene for decades.
Theodorakis, who died Thursday at 96, is lying in state in a cathedral chapel for three days ahead of his burial on the southern island of Crete. His body arrived Monday after a nearly two-hour delay amid a dispute over burial details.
Over the weekend, his family reportedly lifted their objections to him being buried on Crete in accordance with his last wishes. A court had temporarily halted burial plans pending a resolution of the dispute.
Theodorakis' daughter had said earlier that he would be buried near Corinth in the village of Vrahati, where he maintained a holiday home. But a 2013 letter Theodorakis had written to the mayor of the town of Chania in Crete was made public, in which the composer said he wanted to be buried in the nearby cemetery of Galatas, despite his family’s disagreement.
Theodorakis was as well-known in Greece for his political activism as for his musical career. He penned a wide range of work, from somber symphonies to popular TV and film scores, including for “Serpico” and “Zorba the Greek.”
He is also remembered for his opposition to the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, a time during which he was persecuted and jailed and his music outlawed.
Greece’s Communist Party said over the weekend that Theodorakis’ body will lie in state beginning Monday, and a “farewell ceremony” will be held Wednesday, before the late composer is flown to Crete. The church service and burial will be on Thursday.
Theodorakis had a tumultuous relationship with the Communist Party, known by its Greek accronym KKE, leaving it in the late 1960s, rejoining in the late 1970s and getting elected as a lawmaker with the conservative New Democracy party in 1990.
But he wrote a letter in October to Communist Party Secretary-General Dimitris Koutsoumbas, essentially entrusting him with the funeral arrangements.
“Now, at the end of my life, at the time of taking stock, details are erased from my mind and the ‘Big Things’ remain. So, I see that I spent my most crucial, forceful and mature years under KKE’s banner. For this reason, I want to depart this world as a communist,” Theodorakis wrote.