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The Agios Ioannis Stin Kolona church in Athens

Churches in Athens

Agios Ioannis Stin Kolona
(Saint John around the Column)

The church of Saint John around the column is a little difficult to find. It is situated in a small garden on Evripidou street (Psirri). Its unique form and the religious beliefs, with which it is associated, make it one of the most interesting Byzantine buildings in Athens.

The church is a single-nave basilica built around a Corinthian pillar (column) that rises right through its roof. The pillar was part of an earlier monument that used to stand on the site. This is why the church carries the sobriquet “around the column”.

The church is associated with a number of interesting religious beliefs: it is dedicated to Saint John who is known as thermastis (warming) and who was believed to relieve people from high fever and heal them. This belief is related to the function of the site in Ancient times. There was once here an ancient sanctuary of Asclepios with a monument dedicated to the Athenian physician Taxaris who was said to cure people suffering from a high temperature.

It is worth adding that a high temperature was the main symptom of malaria, a common ailment in Athens until the beginning of the 20th century. The belief was so widely accepted that, until recent years, one could see the many colored threads that people used to tie around the pillar in praying for recovery.

Saint John

Towards the end of his life, Saint John erected a pillar on the ground and tied up lots of colored silk threads representing every single ailment and put them around the base of the pillar. He then said, “When I die, people who are sick can come here and tie a silk thread around the pillar and the thread will have to be the color of their ailment and they will have to repeat three times: “Saint John, I tie up my ailment and I ask you to untie it” and so, they will be healed.”.

Location map
Evripidou street - Psirri
Nearest metro station Monastiraki - Omonia
For typical words, please consult our Greek glossary. Top of the page


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