Church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos in Athens
The church of Panagia Gorgoepikoos is located on Mitropoleos square at the feet of Plaka neighborhood. It is a small temple of unique architectural and decorative style and is considered one of the finest ecclesiastical edifices of Athens. The church is also known as Little Metropolis, due to being built next to the current Metropolis Cathedral, and was part of the Athenian Archbishopric. It is also dedicated to Agios Eleftherios.
The name “Gorgoepikoos” derives from the previous illustration of the Virgin Mary of the same name and honors the miraculous ability of the Holy Mother to realize the requests of the believers quickly. The church is estimated to date back to the 12th century, however, many historical sources hint that is might be even older and presumably built by the Byzantine Empress Irene the Athenian. As it is frequently the case, the church was built on the ruins of a former ancient temple that was dedicated to Eletheia, a deity-protector of pregnancy and labor.
The small temple belongs to the cruciform kind, supported by four interior columns and has a three-part narthex and a dome. The interior was decorated with elaborate frescoes, however, there are none left, besides that of Virgin Mary that dates back to the 13th century. What is outstanding regarding this church is that the building material is mainly marble pieces and stones that derive from edifices of the classical period, the Roman era as well as the medieval Byzantine one. There are more than ninety reliefs of an extensive thematology and detailed technique, resulting in a temple that is one of a kind.
The temple functioned in 1841 as the city’s public library and in 1856 it was restored and also dedicated to Agios Eleftherios. To this day it constitutes a monument of special significance, with its fascinating decoration patterns mesmerizing visitors and specialists alike.