Byzantine Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Byzantine Museum

Attica, Attica, Greece

With over 25,000 artefacts of national importance dating from the 3rd to 20th centuries AD, the Byzantine Museum is a popular attraction in Athens.

Peta Stamper

28 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Byzantine Museum

The Byzantine Museum in Athens contains over 25,000 artefacts of national importance and is a popular attraction for visitors to the Greek capital. The museum’s vast collection covers the Early Christian, Byzantine, Medieval and post-Byzantine eras, including religious artefacts, stunning iconography, sculpture, textiles, paintings, manuscripts and more.

The museum is divided in 5 main sections: from the ancient world to Byzantium; the Byzantine world; intellectual and artistic activity in the 15th century; from Byzantium to the modern era; Byzantium and modern art.

Byzantine Museum history

Founded in 1914, the Byzantine and Christian Museum as the organisation was originally known, was connected to the Christian Archaeological Society, founded in 1884 by then Queen Olga’s secretary, George Lampakis. The museum was headed by Prince Nicholas and Professor Adamantios Adamantios, with a collection of works from the monuments of Attica and Thissio.

Originally held in the National Archaeological Museum, in 1930, the museum was finally housed within the Villa Illisia – one of Athens’ few remaining 19th century buildings. The Villa Illisia had been completed in 1848 by architect Stamatis Kleathis, and it functioned as the winter home of French Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchess of Plaisance.

The villa was a complex of buildings with a large courtyard, the facade covered with marble and combining the Neoclassical styles with element of the Romantic and traditional Greek architecture. While the museum and its collections were held in the villa, they were later transferred to a subterranean multi-level building designed by Greek architect, Manos Perrakis. The intention was that the central Villa Illisia would be restored and house temporary exhibitions.

In 2004, coinciding with the Athens Olympics, the museum reopened to the public after extensive renovations including a whole new wing.

Byzantine Museum today

Today, visitors can explore the museum’s collections of manuscript copies, sculptures, ceramics, crafts, paintings (including modern and contemporary arts), fabrics and carvings, all tracing back to Greece’s early Christian, Byzantine and medieval periods. The beautiful building itself can be admired from the museum’s gardens.

To make viewing this immense collection easier, you can follow the thematic routes that provide you with a narrative of the objects you view, explaining how they relate to one another. The themes include: ‘the road of water’, women, strange objects, ‘walking to the hereafter’ and gold. Tickets cost 8€ although considerable concessions are available.

Getting to the Byzantine Museum

Situated on the Vassilissis Sofias Avenue 22, the easiest way to reach the museum is via public transport. Get the metro to stop Evangelismos on Line 3, a minute walk down the road to the right. From this stop you can also get buses 220, 221, 224, 235, 608, 662, 815, A5, E14 or X14.

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