Almost all Byzantine churches in Athens were built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the golden age of Byzantine art. This explosive church building is a result of the Christian restoration that followed the campaigns of Basileios II in the Balkans (around 1025, see history), which led to the submission of the Bulgarian Empire and the restoration of Byzantine control over Greece. In the same period, some of the most famous monasteries in the Athens area were established.
The old Mitropolis (cathedral)
This charming little church located near the new Mitropolis is dedicated to the Panagia Gorgoepikoos and Eleftherios. Of great importance is the dome, which is the best-preserved example of a dome from the Athenian architectural school. The church is entirely made up of recycled antique marble blocks, all unadorned at the bottom, but decorated at the top with Greek, Roman and Byzantine wall reliefs. A Greek cornice with scenes from the Attic calendar has been preserved, showing Herakles and Hebe, reliefs with scenes from the Panathenaic Games (Greek or Roman), as well as 9th or 10th century reliefs with animals, plants and a tree of life. Interesting to see is how the Byzantine architect attempted to Christianize the antique reliefs by adding a cross.
The church dates from the 12th century. It was used as the Episcopal Church of Athens after the bishops were expelled from the Parthenon by the Franks and later the Turks
This small church is located in the middle of the famous shopping street Ermou. When the Ermou was built in 1834, it was briefly considered to demolish or move the church, because it would block the street. It was eventually preserved through the intervention of King Louis of Bavaria (the father of the newly crowned King Otto). It is a Byzantine cross church dedicated to the “presentation of the Virgin”. Construction started in the 11th century, but was finally completed in the 13th century. The marble screen inside the church is a copy of the screen in the monastery of Kaisariani and was made later. The mosaic above the entrance was created in 1936 by the artist Elli Voïla, while the frescoes inside are also new, created in 1942 by icon painter Fotis Kontoglou.
An explanation for the name is difficult to give. According to some, the name refers to the Byzantine kapnikon, the chimney tax levied by the emperors, and the church was said to have been built by the taxofficial who was responsible for it. According to others, the church was simply founded by someone called Kapnikarea, while the old name variant Kamoucharea could possibly refer to Kamoucha, a luxurious type of textile.
Agios Georgios (Lykavittos-hill)
The Agios Georgios is the white church at the top of Lykavitos Hill that is visible from all sides. It can be reached by a brisk walk and gives (also in the evening) a beautiful view over Athens. In ancient times, a temple dedicated to Zeus Akraios stood in the same place. The construction date is not exactly known, but this church certainly does not date from the Byzantine period. The tower clock is a gift from Queen Olga, who restored the church in the 19th century.
The Kaisariani monestry (Hymettos)
The Kaisariani Monastery is one of the most important monasteries in Greece, dedicated to the “Presentation of the Virgin”. It was built around 1100 on the remains of a Roman temple, which was again built on an older Greek temple, dedicated to Apthodite and Demeter. Many remnants are still visible from the old temple, including the columns in the katholikon.
In 1204, Pope Innocent III assigned the monastery Kaisariani to the Latin Archbishop of Athens and this was also the place where Sultan Mehmet II was given the keys to the city in 1458.
Of interest are the refectory, the bathhouse and the katholikon (the large church) with a chapel dedicated to Antony.
The wallpaintings of the Kaisariani Monastery date from just before 1700, while the inscriptions in the narthex are dated 1682 by an inscription and painted by Johannes Hypatios.
Agioi Apostoloi tou Solaki
The small church of the Holy Apostles at the southern entrance to the agora is the oldest church in Athens. It was built in 1000-25, but has received many additions in its later history. During the restoration in 1954-57, the church was restored to its former state. Rare and therefore important are the double windows in the dome. The narthex shows frescoes from the 17th century, which are of lesser quality and have been painted over several times. Some frescoes from the demolished church of Agios Spyridon were also transferred to this church at the time