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The ruins of the Tetraconch-Megali Pangia church in Athens

Churches in Athens

Tetraconch-Megali Panagia

The remains of what is believed to be the oldest Christian Church in Athens, are situated in the garden of Hadrian’s Library. This is the Tetraconch, a marble central plan church founded in the 5th century. Parts of the foundations and the lower walls as well as remains of the mosaic floor can still be seen.

The church used to consist of a central square room with four conches that were accentuated by interior colonnades, an interior corridor that surrounded the room and a large narthex and atrium on the western side. The walls were covered by a marble revetment and the floors were decorated with mosaics.

The fact that the church was founded in the administrative centre of the city, its difference from the basilicas constructed in Athens during the same period and the use of expensive materials, indicate that the church was in fact an imperial building. The founder of the church was probably either Herculius, governor of Illyriko (408-12) or the Athenian Empress Eudocia (423-460), also known as Athenais, daughter of the philosopher Leontios and wife of Theodorius II.

The Tetraconch was possibly abandoned during the Slav invasion (582) and was replaced during the 7th century by the large three-aisled basilica that was built over the central building of Hadrian’s Library. The eastern apse and part of the colonnade of this building can still be seen.

In the 11th century, the basilica was replaced by an aisle-less domed cross-shaped church known as Megali Panagia (Great Virgin Mary). It is believed that the church’s name originated from the fact that the oldest icon of Saint Mary painted by Saint Luke was kept there.

The church’s architectural form and decorations are known mostly through the drawings of the traveler Couchaud. The monument used to have a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity and was demolished during the excavations following the 1885 fire that destroyed the Roman Agora.

Location map Roman Agora
Nearest metro station Monastiraki
For typical words, please consult our Greek glossary. Top of the page


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