The most complete information guide about Athens, Greece

Agii Apostoli Solaki


Churches in Athens

Agii Apostoli Solaki
(Holy Apostles Solaki)

You’ll find the church of the Holy Apostles Solaki on the south-eastern side of the Ancient Agora. It is the only monument apart from the Temple of Hephaestus that has remained intact since its foundation. Its site was not selected randomly. It was a key location during the Classical and Byzantine eras. It was on the western side of the Panathenaic Way and the defensive wall that, after the end of the 3rd century, was crucial to the city’s defense against invasion.

The church dates from the last quarter of the 10th century. It is the first significant mid-Byzantine church in Athens and the first of the so-called Athenian type. This monument is significant in the development of Byzantine architecture because it is a successful combination of a central plan and a cross-in-square building.

The name Solakis probably refers to the family who sponsored a later renovation of the church. Another possibility is that, during the 19th century, the densely populated area around the church used to be called “Solaki”.

The Byzantine church was built on the foundations of the 2nd century AD Nymphaeum (a monument consecrated to the nymphs, especially those of springs) while on its eastern side, the foundations of an early Byzantine building have been discovered, probably a house that was demolished in order to build the church.

Agii Apostoli Solaki in  the Ancient AgoraThe foundation of the church towards the end of the 10th century coincides with the beginning of a great era for Athens which lasted until the conquest of the Franks in 1201. The church was obviously built in order to cover the increasing need for parishes in a constantly developing city.

The church’s ground plan consists of a four columned cross-shaped cell covered by a dome. The four cross arms end in semi-circular niches. Between the niches there is an equal number of smaller conches. This feature indicates the architect’s intelligence, since the smaller niches give a sense of unity to the interior of the church. The addition of the narthex to the main church is equally inventive as the church’s western niche and the two smaller ones on each side were unified with the narthex which has the shape of the Grek letter. All these elements give the church a balanced and harmonious character both externally and internally.

After initial construction was completed, the northern end of the narthex was expanded in order to fit an internal arcosolium (an arched recess used as a burial place in a catacomb). There is no certainty of the person who was buried here but is was probably the church’s donor who, according to Byzantine tradition, had the right to be buried there together with the members of his family. The sarcophogus that still exists today, was discovered by archaeologists working nearby the church who placed it in the arcosolium. Graves were also found in the main area of the church as well as in the narthex.

Agii Apostoli SolakiThe building shows a well crafted cloisonné style on the higher parts of the walls while the lower parts consist of large, randomly arranged layers. The rich brickwork decorative patterns create interesting variations of color on the church’s external walls. The frieze with kufic brick patterns on the upper part of the narthex, was restored during renovation according to other similar examples. The dome with the light proportions is the oldest example of the Athenian type in the city. The double-light windows on the sides of the dome’s drum are rare and significant.

Archaeological finds and the writings of numerous travelers indicate that the church was damaged ca. 1687 in the fighting between the Ottomans and the Venetians. In the 18th century, at the time when the church was repaired, the wall paintings were added. These are mediocre and were later painted over many times.

In 1876-82, extensive work took place in repairing and extending the church which resulted in the alteration of its form and the addition of a tasteless extension to its western side. Many parts of the marble screen were built into the added extension. These parts were used to guide the experts in restoring the screen.

During the excavations conducted by the American Archaeological School in the Ancient Agora in the mid-20th century, it was considered necessary to repair and restore the church. The restoration which brought the church to its present form, possibly the closest to its original, lasted two years, from February 1954 until September 1956.

Locaton map South-eastern side of the Ancient Agora
Nearest metro staton Monastiraki
For typical words, please consult our Greek glossary
. Top of the page


Add to Favit Add to Digg Add to Add to Simpy Add to StumbleUpon Add to Netscape Add to Furl Add to Yahoo Add to Google Add to Blogmarks Add to Ma.Gnolia Add to Netvouz





























    © 2004-2009 - Athens Info Guide - All rights reserved - Disclaimer