Athens Panagia Kapnikarea church

Location: Syntagma

The Church of Panagia Kapnikarea in Athens is located in the middle of the city’s most lively and crowded downtown street, Ermou Street, which connects Syntagma with Monastiraki Square.
It is a renowned Athenian monument, one of the oldest churches in Athens and, admittedly, one of the most significant Byzantine edifices.

Sources conclude that it was built in the early 11th century (around 1050 AD) on the former location of an ancient temple that was dedicated either to the goddess Athena or the goddess Demeter, following the tradition of other early Christian churches. 

The church is dedicated to Panagia (The Virgin Mary) and has a rather unusual name. Kapnikarea is suspected to have been attributed whether from the Byzantine tax kapnikon (applied to residential buildings, from which smoke was emitted from the hearth used for cooking or heating) or from the last name of the tax collector (Kapnikares) who was responsible for the church. The name might also derive from the word kapnismeni (meaning smoked in Greek), due to the marks of fire that are evident on the building.
There are also other popular names such as Kamoucharea or Chrisokamouchariotissa. During the 19th century, it was also known as the Panagia of Prentzas.

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More information about Panagia Kapnikarea Church

The architectural structure of Kapnikarea is rather distinctive; it is a multifaceted edifice, that is constituted by three different parts.
- The main church in the southern part, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and suspected to be the katholikon of a monastery
- The chapel dedicated to Agia Varvara in the northern part
- The exonarthex at the western side.
Regarding its interior, there are certain preserved illustrations, while major restoration work and new iconography have been done by the famous hagiographer Fotis Kontoglou.

During the siege of Athens on the occasion of the Greek Revolution, the church suffered much damage, as cannon shots from the Acropolis destroyed the small church of Agia Varvara almost completely.
Chieftain Ioannis Prentzas undertook its reconstruction completely, which is how the name Panagia of Prentzas was established.

The church was planned to be demolished during the reign of King Otto, as it was not included in the urban designs of his architect, Leo von Klenze. However, it was saved after the intervention of the King of Bavaria and Otto's father, Ludwig. Nowadays, although tormented by centuries of history, the church belongs to the University of Athens and continues to stand out as a unique part of the city’s history.

How to get there

There are many ways to reach the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea from any location in Athens.

Private transfers: We recommend using an online pre-booked transfer service, which provides transfer by taxi, minibus, or private VIP car and arranging a pickup directly from the port, airport, or your hotel. Alternatively, there’s the option of arranging a pickup by a local driver directly at the following numbers: (0030) 18288, (0030) 18222, (0030) 18180. You can also book your taxi online.

On foot: As the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is located in a central area of Athens, it can be easily reached on foot from Syntagma, in less than 10 minutes.

By metro: The closest metro station is Monastiraki (Green Line and Blue Line). Note that the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is located within a 5-minute walking distance from the metro. Get a map of the metro here.

By bus/trolleybus: The closest bus stop is “Monastiraki”. Check the routes and the official timetables on OASA Telematics.



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