Athens Panagia Kapnikarea church

Location: Syntagma

The church of Panagia Kapnikarea is one of the oldest temples in Athens and admittedly one of the most significant Byzantine edifices. Sources conclude that it was built in the early 11th century (around 1050) on the former location of an ancient temple that was dedicated either to goddess Athena or Demeter, following the tradition of other early Christian churches. The church is located in the middle of the city’s most lively and crowded downtown street, Ermou, on the way from Syntagma to Monastiraki square and is one of the most typical Athenian monuments.

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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” 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 “Panagia of Prentzas”, after the last name of the great donor.

The architectural structure of Kapnikarea is rather distinctive; it is a multifaceted edifice, that is constituted by three different parts; the main church at the southern part, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is suspected to be the katholikon of a monastery; the chapel dedicated to Agia Varvara at the northern part; and 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.

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, 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.

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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 Athens 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 693 881 8288, 0030 694 597 2090, 0030 690 943 9292 or 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” on lines 1 and 3. 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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