Athens Cathedral - History and Facts | History Hit

Athens Cathedral

Attica, Greece

Peta Stamper

23 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Athens Cathedral

Seat of the Greek Orthodox Church, Athens Cathedral is a neo-classical style building in the heart of Athens that hosts religious ceremonies and the weddings of notable persons.

Athens Cathedral history

When Athens became the Greek capital in 1834, an imposing cathedral was essential to seat the Archbishop and Greek Orthodox Church. Construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens therefore began in the centre of the new capital on Christmas Day, 1842, as the cornerstone was laid by King Otto and Queen Amalia.

An inspiration to modern sustainability, the cathedral’s immense walls were built using the recycled marble from 72 abandoned or ruined churches. Despite a pause in 1843 for lack of funds, it took three architects and 20 years to finish building the three-aisled, domed neo-classical basilica.

Buried inside the cathedral were the tombs of two saints, both killed by the Turks under the Ottoman Empire. The first is Saint Philothei who was martyred in 1589 after ransoming enslaved Greek women. The second, Gregory V the Ethnomartyr, patriarch of the Orthodox Church, who was publicly hanged in 1821 in retaliation for an uprising on 25 March that marked the beginning of the Greek War for Independence.

Therefore, not only was Athens Cathedral an impressive place of worship, it was a symbol declaring Greek political and religious independence won against Ottoman rule, which had lasted since the mid-15th century until 1830.

Athens Cathedral today

Any trip to Athens is incomplete without visiting this cathedral in the city’s beating heart. Access to the cathedral is free, so drop in to find some peace and quiet from the bustling streets among the intricate icons and exquisite artworks throughout the cathedral. Light a candle in a beautifully carved candle repository, and gaze up at the astonishing 24-metre-high dome.

Be sure to also check out the ‘little cathedral’ next door, a 12th century church assembled from old pagan temples dedicated to Agios Eleftherior and decorated with 90 relief scenes. In some of the images, you can see crosses carved over them, the purpose of which was to neutralise non-Christian images and ‘baptise’ the pagan building materials.

Getting to Athens Cathedral

Athens Cathedral is hard to miss: the church is located in the central Square Mitropoleos overlooked by the Pantheon and a 5 minute walk from Syntagma Square. If travelling by public transport, get the Metro to Monstiraki and Syntagma or catch the 025, 026 and 027 buses.

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