In the summer of 1901, Arthur Evans’s excavation on the east side of the Central Court of the Palace of Knossos led to an extremely important discovery: the “Grand Staircase”, which provided access to the wing housing – according to Evans – the royal apartments. This wing was built after the whole east slope of the hill had been cut away.
The “Grand Staircase” consists of two flights of stairs, flanked by colonnades, which are repeated on each storey. A large lightwell on the east side, surrounded by columns, provides the area with natural lighting. The columns on the stair side were placed in socketed bases, forming a stepped balustrade. On the other two sides, the repetition of the columns on the upper storey formed successive verandas or loggias, like that decorated with the copy of the “Figure-of-Eight Shields Fresco”. On the south side of the lightwell there were windows instead of columns.
Of the entire “Grand Staircase”, four sets of stairs survive today. The two upper ones have been reconstructed by Evans, while the two lower remain as they were found.
It is worth noting the width, low height and slight inclination of the steps, which make ascent and descent particularly easy.
The damage, which started to appear immediately after the excavation of the magnificent but fragile underground structure of the Staircase, made immediate protection and conservation imperative.
Evans’s colleague T. Fyfe originally undertook the restoration of the area, the conservation of the masonry and the placement of new wooden beams where the ancient wooden framework had been. However, all these efforts proved futile, mainly due to the adverse weather conditions.