Athens Byzantine Churches,, Ancient Agora and Solakis church
Ancient Agora and the Byzantine Solakis Church

Athens Byzantine Churches and Monasteries can be found literally everywhere in the city center.

Some of the Athens Byzantine churches that we will discuss in the post stand in the middle of busy shopping centers, like Kapnikarea Church, or at significant archaeological sites like Agioi Apostoloi Solakis in Ancient Agora. The only Byzantine monasteries that need a car as they are both a bit out of Athens’ center are the Kesariani Monastery and the UNESCO Daphni Monastery.

Short History of Athens Byzantine Churches

Athens Byzantine Churches, Istanbul fall
Istanbul Military Museum: Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, 1453

Byzantine Empire begins with the inauguration of Constantinople on 11th May 330 AD and continue until its final fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on 29th May 1453.

Ancient Athens, after the successive barbarian raids, disasters, and the Roman conquest had passed into an era of decline. From 380 AD onwards, the Byzantine Emperors issued decrees trying to eliminate the ancient Greek religion and establish the new one, Christianity.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Emperoro Justinian
Emperor Justinian (on the horse)

The decrees issued by Theodosius I (380-394), banned ancient worship and the Olympic Games. Theodosius II (408-450) abolished the Eleusinian cult. Later, Justinian (527-565), under the pretext of financial difficulties, closed the Plato philosophical schools of Athens.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Kapnikarea
Kapnikarea Church, by Théodore du Moncel, Vues pittoresques, 1843

After the decree of Theodosius II, the ancient temples were hastily and destructively converted into Christian churches. The Parthenon (which means virgin in Greek) on Acropolis Hill, from the temple of the Parthenon goddess Athena, became the temple of the Parthenon Holy Mary (Panagia Athiniotissa).

Athens Byzantine Churches, Moni Petraki
Moni Petraki – Photo by Anthony Venitis 

The monuments that are preserved today are a testimony to the importance of Athens and its role in the medieval empire of Byzantium, proving at the same time its timeless cultural continuity, from antiquity to the present day.

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Athens Quick Reference

Athens Byzantine Churches Architecture

Kesariani Monastery’s kitty and my friend Fred

Some of the unique features of Byzantine architecture are:

  • characteristic domes
  • the use of brick as a building material in place of stone
  • the extensive use of mosaics as a decorative element in place of sculpture
  • the greater height of buildings as a result of the use of domes
  • the invention of a system that allows the combination of the building use of these domes with the support of a square plane
Athens Byzantine Churches, the dome
Athenian Dome (Kapnikarea church)

What truly distinguishes these churches as ‘Athenian’ are their unique red-tiled, eight-sided domes (Athenian Dome) that crown these holy buildings, representing the last traces of Byzantium in Athens.

Athens Byzantine Churches Interactive Map

Athens Byzantine Churches, google map
Athens Byzantine Churches Map

Get your Google Interactive Map of Athens Byzantine Churches here to walk to the mentioned churches. The only ones that need a car are the Kesariani and Daphni Monasteries.

Up next I am going to tell you about the 10 best Athens Byzantine churches and monasteries.

1. The Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos & Agios Eleftherios

Athens Byzantine Churches, metropolis church
Metropolis and Agios Eleftherios on the right

As the Metropolis of Athens dominates the square in Athens center, not everyone notices the little masterpiece of a Byzantine church on its side, built on top of an ancient temple dedicated to Eileithyia.

Athens Byzantine Churches, agios eleftherios
Agios Eleftherios Church

Unlike most Byzantine churches of its era (built in the 12th century), it is made of marble, unsculptured stones, and reliefs. Inside the upper part of the walls, 90 reliefs have been placed, creating a spectacular decorative effect for a Byzantine church.

Athens Byzantine Churches, frescoes of Agios Eleftherios
Interior of the church

Another unique characteristic of this Byzantine Church is that it is dedicated to two saints, Panagia Gorgoepikoos and Agios Eleftherios. It is celebrated on 28 October & 15 December.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00 daily
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • No photos with flash
  • Lower your voice

2. Panagia Kapnikarea in Ermou St

Athens Byzantine Churches,  Kapnikarea today
Kapnikarea Church

Panagia Kapnikarea Church or Holy Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary was built in the 11th century and today stands in the middle of the busiest shopping pedestrian street in Athens. As you can imagine it is one of the most well-known churches in Athens and a popular meeting point.

Kapnikarea entrance

Kapnikarea has a complex cross-in-square construction with a dome that is supported by four Roman columns. The frescoes of the church belong to the modern era, from 1942, and were painted by Fotis Kontoglou and his students, a Byzantine art school. On the north of Kapnikarea Church, a chapel dedicated to St. Barbara has been attached, dating back to the late Ottoman period.

It is celebrated on 21 November.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: weekdays, Sat. 11:00-17:00, Sun: 07:00-13:00. 
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • No photos at all
  • Lower your voice

3. Church Panagia Pantanassa in Monastiraki

Athens Byzantine Churches,, Panagia Pantanassa
Panagia Pantanassa

The Byzantine church of Panagia Pantanassa is located in Monastiraki square, a very popular and lively square close to most archaeological sites of Athens.

There is some conflict as to when Panagia Pantanassa was erected. The archaeologists Sotiriou and Wulff placed the construction of the Temple around the 8th century AD, which they consider to be the date of all the arched basilicas of Athens. If this is true, it makes Panagia Pantanassa the oldest church in Athens. However, Orlandos and Xygopoulos archaeologists consider that the original Church was built in the 10th century AD.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Panagia Pantanassa in old times
Panagia Pantanassa in 1864 and on the back of the Acropolis Hill

What is certain is that the church was built as the Katholikon of the Great Monastery that was occupying the whole square 1000 years ago. Its architecture is a vaulted basilica, with many alterations through the centuries. The frescoes are from the modern era.

It is celebrated on the 15th of August. The church today is a parish and is served by Fr. Gabriel Teknetzoglou. The telephone number of the church is +30 210-3213038.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: every day until evening 
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • No photos with flash
  • Lower your voice

4. Agioi Apostoloi Solakis in Ancient Agora

Athens Byzantine Churches, ancient Agora
Agioi Apostoloi hidden between trees in Ancient Agora

Ancient Agora is the second most important archaeological site in Athens right after the Acropolis Hill. It is my favorite site as it is a very green area and in the spring the whole place smells of chamomile and daisies. And on top of the Ancient Agora, near the Stoa of Attalos, sits the gorgeous Byzantine temple of Agioi Apostoloi Solakis.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Agioi Apostoloi church
Agioi Apostoloi Solakis Church

The Agioi Apostoloi Solakis Church is a magnificent Middle Byzantine ecclesiastical building. It was built in the 10th century on an ancient monument dedicated to the Nymphs. To visit it you have to pay for an entrance ticket for the Ancient Agora (€10).

It is celebrated on 30 June. Opening hours: 08:00 – 18:00 (in summer), 08:00 -17:00 (in winter).

5. Agioi Asomatoi(Incorporeal) Church in Thissio

Athens Byzantine Churches,, Agioi Asomatoi Thissio
Agioi Asomatoi Church

Built in the 11th century, Agioi Asomatoi small church is dedicated to the incorporeal saints or angels. The church is a typical example of the Athenian Byzantine church with a characteristic entrance decorated with marble. The horseshoe-shaped arch above the north entrance is also of Islamic inspiration.

It is topped by a particularly elegant Athenian dome. It is located near the Thissio area, close to the Train station, the pedestrian that leads to Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, and the Synagogues.

It is celebrated on 7 November. Opening hours: 07:00 -12:00. Closed on Thurs. & Sun. afternoons

6. Agios Nikolaos Ragavas in Plaka

Athens Byzantine Churches, Ragavas church
Ragavas facade

The large church of Agios Nikolaos Ragavas is at the Acropolis hill slope right in the heart of Plaka, Athens’ old town.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Plaka
Ragavas backside and Plaka’s alleys

It was built in the first half of the 11th century, on top of an ancient Greek Temple with a remaining Ionic column incorporated into its north side.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Ragavas church
Ragavas sign about being a Byzantine church of the 11th c

It is part of a complex belonging to the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and a very important Athens Byzantine Church.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Ragavas altar
Ragavas Altar with the Corinthian Column

The holy altar is supported by an inverted Corinthian column, a rather unique use of the ancient column. The Ragavas Byzantine church is a simple four-column cross-inscribed church and it was the first church in Athens to receive its bell after the War of Independence in 1821 (the Ottomans had banned the bells from the Greek churches).  

It is celebrated on 6 December.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: weekdays 09:00:12:30, Saturday & Sunday 09:00:12:30
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • No photos at all
  • Lower your voice

7. Agios Dimitrios Loubardiaris in Acropolis

Athens Byzantine Churches, Loubardiaris
Agios Dimitrios Loubardiaris

The Byzantine church of Agios Dimitrios Loubardiaris is right across from the Acropolis entrance, on the forested hill of Philopappos. The Basilica was built in the 12th century and its frescoes date back to 1732. 

Athens Byzantine Churches, Loubardiaris interior
Loubardiaris interior

Loubardiaris church is very popular for christenings and as it is at the beginning of the Philopappos forested area, is frequently visited by families, runners, and hikers.

It is celebrated on 16 October.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: daily 08:00-12:00, Fri. 08:00-12:00, and 22:00-00:30
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • No photos at all
  • Lower your voice

8. Moni Petraki in Kolonaki

Athens Byzantine Churches, Moni Petraki
Moni Petraki

Kolonaki is a central, posh area of Athens full of upscale restaurants and expensive shops. It also houses a few architectural masterpieces like the Benaki Museum and the catholicon of the Asomatoi Taxiarches Monastery or Moni Petraki.

Moni Petraki was constructed in the 10th century AD with Corinthian-type columns and along with Metochi in Plaka, it is a popular church for Easter night celebrations. What is really remarkable is that Byzantine Petraki Church has been in continuous use since the 10th century AD, until our days with a short period of desolation between 1500 – 1673 AD.

Athens Byzantine Churches Moni Petraki frescoes
Moni Petraki – Photo Efsyn

Inside the Catholicon, you can admire the beginning of the domes, the relief cornice, as well as the two small capitals of the two dividing columns of the three-light window. In 1719 A.D. Markos worked on the previous iconography of the Catholicos and managed to remove any Western influence and introduce again the orthodox artwork.

Moni Petraki is celebrated on November 8th. It is daily open Mon-Sun, 06.00-14.00, 17.00-21.30

9. Monastery of Kesariani

Monastery of Kesariani

The monastery of Kesariani is one of the most important Athens Byzantine monuments built in the second half of the 11th century. It is hidden in the green forest of Hymettos Mt, near the shrine of Aphrodite, in a gorgeous natural environment with outstanding views of Athens. The monastery of Kesariani is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary and it is a nunnery.

The Catholicon

You can visit the Catholicon, the refectory, the kitchen, the nuns’ cells, and look in through the window of the bathhouse. The frescoes of the narthex (painted by John Ypatos according to an in situ inscription) date back to 1682.

Athens Byzantine Churches, Kesariani icons
Icons in a cave in the monastery of Kesariani

The monastery has a rich library and was also an important center of philosophy. Besides the beautiful medieval complex of the Kesariani monastery, you should visit the botanical walk nearby with the plants’ names written in Latin and English. 

Athens Byzantine Churches, hiking
Hymmettos paths

The area is also ideal for hiking, as there are cleared and very well-signposted trails.

Entrance Info:

  • Opening hours: daily (except for Tuesdays) between 8.30 am – 16.00 (summer) and 15.00 (winter).
  • Entrance Fee: €3
  • Dress Code: Avoid shorts, remove your hat inside the church
  • No food/drinks are allowed besides water
  • Lower your voice

You can go by public bus 224.

10. Daphni Monastery

The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, the Catholicon
Catholicon of Daphni Monastery

The Byzantine Daphni Monastery, 11 km from Athens center, is a UNESCO world heritage site, that was first built in the 6th century. The Daphni Monastery features unique and impressive mosaics on a gold background, with outstanding artistic characteristics. The Daphni Monastery is often combined with a day tour to Ancient Corinth.

The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, Pantokrator mosaic
Pantokrator Mosaic – Photo Antonios Poseplov

The Monastery also exhibits the architectural perfection of the middle period of Byzantine religious architecture (11th and 12th centuries).

Read here my dedicated post on Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens.

Byzantine and Christian Museum

best hotels in plaka athens - Byzantine Christian Museum2
Byzantine Museum in Athens center

The 11th and 12th centuries are considered the golden ages of Athenian Byzantine art, many of which can be seen at the exceptional Byzantine and Christian Museum.

The museum is housed in the beautiful Villa Ilissia and features a wide collection of sculptures, paintings, and other artifacts from the 3rd century AD to medieval times. It also features a fantastic garden cafe, perfect for a break after a warm day. Next door is the newly excavated Archaeological Site of the Lyceum of Aristotle.

Unesco Monuments in Greece

Osios Loukas Monastery in Delphi Oracle
Osios Loukas Monastery

There are currently 18 UNESCO Monuments in Greece:

Athens, Attika (1): Acropolis Hill

Monasteries (3):

Northern Greece (4):

  • Vergina
  • Philippi
  • Paleochristian, and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
  • Mount Athos

Peloponnese (5):

Islands (5):

Central Greece (2):

Dress Code for Greek Monasteries

Meteora Monasteries dress code
Dress Code in Meteora Monasteries

Greek Monasteries and the nuns, monks, and priests that keep the tradition alive and running, are requesting the visiting guests to apply modest clothes and behavior inside the Monasteries.

Some ideas about what to wear inside the Monasteries are:

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Did you visit the Byzantine Churches of Athens? Let me know what you think about visiting the Greek Orthodox Churches in the comments, I’d love to hear whether I managed to get it onto your bucket list! Till next time, Evgenia❤️

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