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The Agios Nicholas Rangabas church in Athens

Churches in Athens

Agios Nicholas Rangavas
(Saint Nicholas Rangavas)

The Church of Saint Nicholas Rangavas is situated north-east of the Acropolis between Pritaneiou and Epicharmou streets in Anafiotika. It dates to the first half of the 11th century and is one of the city’s most important Byzantine monuments. In more recent years it has had significant additions and alterations.

According to written sources, the name Rangavas belongs to a family that was well-established in Athens and Constantinople whose best known member was Emperor Michel I Rangabe (811-13). There are no existing documents regarding the foundation of the church. However, it played such an important role in medieval Athens that a whole surrounding area was named after it as was a nearby gate on the defensive walls, the Rangavas Gate.

Initially it was private but eventually it became, and still is, a parish church. Experts date the building to the 11th century (1040-50) because of stylistic characteristics similar to those of numerous other churches from that period (Sotira tou Lykodemos ca. 1031, Kapnikarea ca. 1050 and Agia Ekaterini, before 1050). The church has been in its present form since the conservation work of 1979-80 that uncovered several original elements such as the dome, the roofs and the northern side.

Saint NicholasOn the north-eastern side one can see the characteristic mid-Byzantine arrangements of the façades and the spaces. The large vertical tiles have been arranged in a parallel on the lower part of the wall without yet forming a cross. The masonry follows the cloisonné style i.e. sculpted four-sided stone have been used, surrounded by bricks.

There are a few decorative kufic brick patterns (decorative elements that imitate the old Arabic writing in which the Koran was first written in the city of Kufa, in present-day Iraq) and there also are numerous ancient pieces of architecture in use which was quite a frequent practice in this period. A particular decorative element is the double row of dentils around the whole exterior of the church. The dome is also typical of the period. It is small, has eight sides and is of the Athenian type.

Saint Nicholas Rangavas is a four-columned, domed, cross-in-square type of church, similar to that of Saint Assomati in Thissio and the Church of the Metamorphosis on the northern side of the Acropolis. In more recent years the chapel of Saint Paraskevi was added on the northern side. Later on, the church, around which the area of Anafiotika had begun to develop, was extended to the west with the addition of the narthex and the bell tower while apses on the eastern side took the form of a unified buttress.

Between Pritaneiou and Epicharmou streets - Anafiotika
Nearest metro station Ambelokipi
For typical words, please consult our Greek glossary. Top of the page


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