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Byzantine Iconography

The orthodox icon as a place and way of multiple encounters

On the Divine Images I.16-17

Orthodox Art and Architecture

The honor and veneration of the holy icons

Byzantine Athens



EKKLISIA HAGION APOSTOLON (Church of The Holy Apostles) (6)

The church of the Holy Apostles – Solakis is located on the south-eastern side of the ancient Agora. It is dated back to the second half of the tenth century. It is the first significant mid-byzantine church in Athens and the first of the so called Athenian type. The dome of the church is the oldest one of the particular type.
The church is also known by the name Solakis, probably from the family name to which the church belonged during the Ottoman period.
Architecturally, the church is a rare example of an amalgamation of the cross-in-square with dome, and a successful combination of a tetraconch – a central square space with conches on all four sides- nave with the general layout being a circular one. The simple, four-columned, cross-shaped center is covered with a dome. Interposed by four smaller ones, which constitute the corners of the square that inscribes the cross.
The conchs of the church on the North and South side are built in accordance to the Mount Athos (Hagio Oros) church type.
The octahedral dome with two-lobe windows and arched cornices, the beautiful ornamental brickworks of the dentil band along with the frieze Kufic motifs on the upper part of the external walls, suggest a work of a very talented architect.
The inventiveness of the architect can also be identified by the integration of the church main narthex, with two proportionally smaller ones in each the church sides.
This gave a well balance and harmonious structure.
The building suffered many damages through several periods in history, but managed to survive through many reconstructions and renovations until today.


EKKLISIA HAGION ASOMATON –THISIO (Church of the Incorporeals – Thision) (7)

The church is situated northwest of the Thision, in Ermou Street. It is dated back to the second halve of the eleventh century.
Architecturally follows the cross-in-square type with dome, the representative style of the Byzantine Athenian School of church architecture of that period.
Rubble masonry flanks the lower parts of the side walls of the church, placed in a cross-shape, which is typical of the masonry ornamentation of many churches of that period. The brick dentils on the external sides of the building attest affiliation to the masonry of that period also.
During the 1960 the church had undergone a rewarded renovation that brought the church to its original morphology, by eliminating the interventions made in the course of the years.
On the northern entrance of the building, a semicircular arch exists. Its shape imitates the Islamic architectural influences that inspire various Byzantine artifacts and decorative details.
Incorporated on the western walls of the building, there are two ceramic plates with Kufic patterns and motifs.
The use of Islamic decorative elements was a trend of that period and one can suggest the relation of those oriental decorative influences with the small Islamic commercial-mostly merchants and manufacturers- community in the city towards the end of the tenth century.


EKKLISIA PANAGIAS PANTANASSAS-(Virgin Mary Churh –Pantanassas) (8)

The church is dedicated to Panagia Pantanassa. It is celebrated on the 15th of August, the day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The church is located in Monastiraki square, opposite Monastiraki metro station. The church is referred to as Big Monastery (Abbey) around 1678 and it is thus named during these years. Since the second half of the sixteenth century and onwards the church became a parish church and the church was no longer called Big Monastery but Mikromonastiro (Small Monastery) or Monastiraki.
Architecturally the church belongs to the three-aisled barrel vaulted basilica, a type that can be ascribed between the establishments and transition of the early Christian basilica type and the well known cross-in-square type. The building's masonry is not of a rectilinear order but more of cobbles not in array (rubble masonry). The side aisles of the church are covered by cross vaults. The central aisle is proportionally higher than the others and supports the barrel vault. In all four conches, pieces from ancient capitals (kionokrano, the head part of a column that ‘crowns' it parametrically) are incorporated.
On the western side three doors, one for each aisle and on the eastern side a tri-conch exist externally, while in the interior is a semi-circular one.
The Holy Sanctuary is segregated with walls dividing the internal structure of the church in three parts, the Vima (the Ambo - t he ambo stands directly in front of the holy Doors), the Prothesis (the place, where the preparation of the bread and wine for the Eucharist is used) and the Diakoniko ( originally the place where the deacons kept the vessels used for the church service). The three parts communicates through arched portals.
Due to geological particularities of the Monastiraki square ground, almost thirty percent (30%), of the building is under the ground.
The church is famous for the grand icons that decorate the iconostasis (first half of nineteenth century), the miraculous icon of Saint Thecla among the other important portable icons and the Holy relics of the Saint Nectarios from Pentapoli.


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