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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



METAMOPRHOSIS TOU SOTIROS – Kotaki (Transfiguration of the Savior- Kotaki ) (1)

The church is dedicated to the Sotira Virgin, and it is named after Kotakis family, great donors of the church. The church was built in the first half of the 11nth century.
It follows the cross-in-square plan, with dome, representative of the Athenian style, - the dome rest on two columns and on the two antae (jambs) of the sanctuary. This type is called Helladic because it can be frequently encountered on the mainland of Greece.
On the East side of the holy sanctuary there are three semicircular apses, while the roof, forms a cross. The cross-shaped arrangement on the roof and the semi-circular apses on the eastern side of the building are the only remains of the original church.
In the year 1908 new additions transform the church into a trihedral basilica with a dome. A new addition in 1971 took place, expanding the church's main building to the west side. This improvement adds two belfries.
Adjacent to the main church, two chapels exists. On the right side the chapel of St. George and on the left side the chapel of St. Demetrious. The elaborate icon of ‘' Neas Kyras ”, dated around the 14nth century, is especially worth noted. It is a part of the holy templon ( proskinitari ) of the St. Demetrius chapel. The icon of the Virgin “ Odigitria ” (16nth century), beautifully modeled can be viewed at the same chapel.
Relics of ancient columns, together with a marble fountain, can be found around the yard of the church.


HAGIA EKATERINI CHURCH- PLAKA (Saint Catherine church- Plaka ) (2)

The church dates back to the first half of the eleventh (11nth). At that period Emperor Comnenus Family rein the Byzantine Empire. During that period elegant monuments begun to build in Athens.
It is built on the ruins of the ancient temple of the Goddess Artemis. During the Roman period, Emperor Hadrian adorned Athens with beautiful monuments; one of those was the public baths that were constructed in the courtyard of Artemis ancient temple, and some ruins can still be seen in the corner of the small palm tree shaded square, where the church is situated.
Saint Catherine church follows the complex tetrastyle , cross-in-square architectural plan with dome. Before any of the posterior existing alterations, the buildings initially form a cross shape type and one can still see small part of the atrium. The altar of the church rests on a part of an ancient colonnade with inscriptions.
Initially the church was dedicated to the military Saint Theodore's, but at a later stage in response to the public demand, the church became a parish church and dedicated to Saint Catherine. The church is considered to be a triune (three to one). The right-hand side aisle is dedicated to St. Antonios , while the left-hand side aisle is dedicated to St. Sofia.
Apart from the elaborated Byzantine frescoes, portable icons of St. John the Baptist which is represented in the basis of the stylistic and iconographic criteria of the Cretan School of art- fifteenth century (15nth), St. Catherin's icon (placed on the west marble iconostasis) which the iconographic style affiliates to a mere folk view (17nth century). Also of great importance is the icon of St.Catherine enthroned, which is depicted following the representative iconographic style of folk art pertained during the Turkish occupation and can be seen on the right side of the wooden iconostasis. The icon of St.Srpiridon , a representative artistic visualization of the Ionian School of art (18nth century), is of excellent beauty.


HAGIOS NIKOLAOS CHURCH-RANGAVA- (Saint Nikolaos church- Rangava ) (3)

The church was built by the Byzantine aristocratic family of Rangavas , after whom it is named. It is situated north-east of Acropolis and it is considered to be one of the city's most important Byzantine monuments.
It is dated to the first half of the eleventh century (11nth), which at that time was built as regular tetrastyle cross-in-square type. Its present form is an amalgamation of reconstructions and additions of three different periods.
The masonry up to the middle of the building is made of voluminous boulders and lime stones, as well as inlaid parts of ancient buildings.
From the middle and upwards the walls were build with the cloisonné system. The Dome of the church is of an octahedral type, resembling the typical Athenian basilica type of that time.
The altar of the church is supported by a marble column capital in reverse.
In more recent years, significant additions and alterations took place. In 1838 the church has been extended to the west with the addition of the narthex and the bell tower.
In more recent years the chapel of Saint Paraskeni was added on the northern side.
Unfortunately nothing was preserved from the old hagiographic ornamentation, and the today's frescoes belong to the period when the Bavarian King Otto (1815-1867) ruled Greece.

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METAMPRHOSIS TOU SOTIROS – Acropolis (Transfiguration of the Savior-Acropolis) (4)

The church is dated to the first half of the eleventh (11nth) century. It is located on the northern foot of the Acropolis.
It is tetrastyle , cross-in-square plan, with dome that was the prominent type of that period in Athens.
The masonry, in the cloisonné system is representative of the particular type, plain in the ornamentation with rectilinear dentil cornice.
Pseudo Kufic motifs decorate the vertical lintels of the temple. The extensions of the church on the West and East faces, took place at a later time.
The central part of the church remains untouched from any renovation or intervention and thus keeping its form to its original stage.
On the North part of the church, a small chapel exists, a part of which is curved into the Acropolis rock.
The chapel is dedicated to Saint Paraskevi (Agia Paraskevi)
Traces of frescoes that dated to the fourteenth (14nth) century were founded under successive layers of plaster.


HAGIOS IOANNIS O THEOLOGOS (Saint John the Theologian)

The small church of St John the Theologian (Hagios Ioannis o Theologos), is located in Erechtheas street,inder the northern side of Acropolis. The church dates back to the twelve century (12nth), and still remains in good condition without any significant alterations or additions.
Architecturally, the church is of a distyle cross-in-square type with an Athenian dome and narthex. It is one of the few Byzantine monuments which preserve parts of its original frescoes.
The church's exterior with the exception of the southern side, follows the cloisonné masonry, creating the particular Byzantine color effect (white stones and red bricks), typical of that period. The dome is one of the most characteristic of the Athenian type. Internally is supported by the sanctuary walls and two column bearing Roman capitals.
The interior mural decoration, especially the Christ Pantocrator depicted on the dome dominates the small church.
On the northern compartment –to the greater part of the prosthesis-the soldier Saint, probably St Georgios is depicted occupying most of the wall.
The stylistic representation and the iconographic style attest affiliation of the mural technique employed round the thirteenth century (13AC).


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