The 10th-12th centuries are considered the heyday of Byzantine art in Athens. Numerous churches and buildings were built during these 2 centuries.
At one time there were about 130 churches in Athens. However, in order to rebuild the Greek capital, churches were often used as a source of building material and thus demolished.
Here we have compiled a small selection of the preserved and most worth seeing churches in Athens.
1. Large Mitropolis Church
The Great Mitropolis Church, also called the Cathedral of the Annunciation, is located in the Plaka district, just below the Acropolis.
The church was built in the middle of the 19th century. The building material consists mainly of marble, which was specially gathered from about 70 other destroyed churches.
It is considered the state church of Athens, bishop's consecrations and other official celebrations take place here. On May 14, 1962, Sophia of Greece married Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, heir to the Spanish throne, in the cathedral.
Icons, frescoes and stone carvings adorn the interior of the Great Mitropolis Church.
2. Small Mitropolis Church
Right next to the big one is the Small Mitropiolis Church. Measuring only seven by eleven meters, it is one of the smallest churches in Athens, but at the same time it is considered one of the oldest and most beautiful.
It was built in the 12th century on top of an ancient temple and served mainly the intercessions of pregnant women. Before the Great Mitropolis Church was built, it was even a bishop's church.
3. Kapnikarea Church
Kapnikarea Church is located on Ermou Street, one of the most popular shopping streets of Athens. It was probably built in the 11th century. Besides its location, it is also known for its unusual architecture; it was built on the remains of an ancient temple.
Originally, the church was to be demolished because it stood in the way of the planned new main axis of Athens, today's Ermou Street. Eventually, however, Ludwig of Bavaria was able to convince his son Otto, the King of Greece, that the church was of great artistic and historical importance. So the road was built bypassing the church.
On its southern side there is the chapel of Agia Varvara, inside there are frescoes by the literary and saint painter Fotis Kontoglou.
4. Agi Apostoli
Agi Apostoli is a Byzantine church built in the 10th century on the remains of an ancient temple dedicated to the Nymphs. Its location on the edge of the Ancient Agora, the old marketplace of Athens, makes it the only surviving building of the Ancient Agora from the Middle Ages. Different styles flowed into each other during its construction, noteworthy is the cruciform floor plan and the large octagonal dome structure with small columns at the corners.
Inside the Agi Apostoli you can admire a marble altar and wall paintings dating back to the 17th century.
5. Agia Triada
The Church of the Holy Trinity is located on the outer edge of the Kerameikos Cemetery of Athens, which is an important archaeological site and attraction.
Built in the 11th century, Agia Triada is one of only 8 churches in Athens that has been preserved in its original form except for minor repair work. During the renovation works, the only catacombs in Athens were discovered. On Sundays, after mass, these can be visited by appointment with the priest.
Very close to Agia Triada, the area is crossed by the Eridanos stream, which makes it a biotope where numerous tortoises live.
6. Lycabettus Church - Agios Georgios
As the name suggests, this church is located on Lycabettus Hill, the Athens city hill, which is the highest elevation in Athens at 277 meters and offers a great view of the whole city.
Whitewashed, the 18th century church sits enthroned on the hill. It is quite small even up close and was once a monk's hermitage.
It is said that in ancient times the temple of Zeus was located in this place.
7. Agi Isodori
Agi Isodori is located approximately in the middle of the Lycabettus hill. If you have decided to climb the hill on foot rather than by funicular, you should not miss this small church.
The entrance to the tiny church is well camouflaged surrounded by pine trees, Agi Isodori was built into a low rock cave. The exact date of its construction is not known, but it burned down in 1930 and was subsequently restored. It was formerly known as Aghios Sidereas church.
8. Panagia Pantanassa
In the middle of the busy Monastiraki square in the center of Athens stands this little known church. It was built on the foundations of an older structure. It used to belong to a now defunct women's monastery dating back to the 10th century. Originally, the church was known as the "Great Monastery", but was later renamed the "Little Monastery" - Monastiraki - thus giving its name to the whole square.
It seems that the bell tower adjacent to the church dates back to another time. Its interior is richly decorated and it has valuable icons. Panagia Pantanassa is considered one of the oldest churches where masses are still held.
9. Sotiras Lykodimos – Russian Church
Sotira Lykodimos Church, also called Russian Church, is located near the Greek Parliament. The Lykodimos family had it built at the beginning of the 11th century. Over the years, the church experienced severe damage and destruction until it was finally handed over to the Russians in 1852 and renovated by them.
The church bell was donated by Tsar Alexander II. Today, the imposing building with a dome 10 meters in diameter is still used by the Russian community in Athens, which is why the church is also known as the "Russian church".
Inside there are important wall paintings by Ludwig Thiersch to admire.
10. Agios Ioannis Theologos
The Agios Ioannis Theologos is located in the Plaka district, on Klafthmonos Square, where Erechtheos and Erotokritou streets intersect below the Acropolis. It dates back to the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century, a bronze coin of Alexios I Komnenos was found confirming the date of construction. The Agios Ioannis Theologos Church represents a typical example of Byzantine architectural style, its dome is a so-called "Athenian dome", octagonal with small columns at the corners.
In 1975-1976 the church was thoroughly restored, which explains its extremely good condition.
The murals inside date back to the 13th century and are said to be the work of a local craftsman.
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