The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens: In between the squares of Syntagma and Monastiraki in Athens lies the Metropolitan Cathedral - or Mitropoli Athinon as locals refer to it.
Dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, it’s also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation.
Its groundbreaking took place in 1842, and the building was completed in 1862.
Since then, it has been considered one of the most important landmarks of Greece’s modern history. It also constitutes a spiritual center of Greek Orthodoxy.
After its inauguration, it has hosted numerous significant ceremonies, such as Greek royals’ christenings, funerals, and weddings: The christening of King Constantine II, the funeral of King Paul I, and the wedding of Prince George and Princess Marie Bonaparte were all held there.
Its architectural type is a three-aisled basilica with a dome, while it features both neoclassical and Greek-Byzantine elements.
After the earthquakes that shook the capital in 1982 and 1999, the building sustained extensive damage. That resulted in years of scaffoldings surrounding it. It closed in 2009 to undergo restorations and renovations.
Fortunately, the church’s services resumed in 2016.
History of the Cathedral of Athens
The cornerstone of the Metropolitan Cathedral was laid in December 1842 by King Otto and Queen Amalia. Theophil Hansen, the Danish architect who designed the Academy of Athens and the National Library, also made the first plans for the cathedral. However, due to a lack of funds, the construction was on hold from 1843 until 1846. Eventually, the amount was raised thanks to personal donations made by King Otto and the benefactor Georgios Sinas, fund-raising activities, and sales of ecclesiastical properties.
When the project resumed in 1846, the basilica started being built according to the designs of Dimitrios Zezos. After he died in 1857, French architect Francois Boulanger and Greek architect Panagis Kalkos supervised the project.
The construction was completed on May 21, 1862, and the church was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.
Structure and Design
In terms of architecture, the cathedral is a three-aisled basilica with a dome. Many changes occurred during its construction, so the church features a combination of influences regarding architecture and style. Initially, it was built according to Hansen’s plans - up to the height of the first series of windows; his designs featured renaissance and gothic elements. Zezos later integrated the Greek-Byzantine element.
The building measures 40m long and 20m wide, while the dome goes up to 24m. Workers used materials from 72 abandoned or ruined churches for its construction.
An arcade supported by Corinthian columns adorns the central entrance. Moreover, you can see two identical bell towers, one on the left and one on the right side of the building. The cathedral is adjacent to Saint Eleftherios church, which was constructed in the 12th century. That makes the Metropolis’ multi-element design even more evident in the eyes of the visitors.
In the interior, the decoration was made by Konstantinos Fanellis. The beautiful church murals were created by Spyridon Giallinas and Alexander Seitz, while the sculptural architectural elements are Georgios Fytalis’ work.
Additionally, in the front of the cathedral, one can admire two imposing statues; one of Archbishop Damaskinos, who was the Archbishop of Athens during World War II, and one of Saint Constantine XI, the last emperor of the Byzantine Empire.
Athens Metropolitan cathedral constitutes the cathedral church of the Archbishopric of Athens. The archbishop title has belonged to Ieronymos II since 2008.
Numerous important ceremonies have taken place on the site of the cathedral, such as christenings, weddings, and funerals of famous people, including the Greek royals.
Some of these royal mysteries are:
• The Wedding of the future King Constantine I and Princess Sophia of Prussia (October 1889)
• The Wedding of Prince George and Princess Marie Bonaparte (December 1907)
• The Funeral of the assassinated King George I (April 1913)
• The Christening of the future King Constantine II (July 1940)
• The Funeral of King Paul I (March 1964)
• The Christening of Crown Prince Pavlos (July 1967)
• The Wedding of Prince Philippos and Nina Natassja Flohr (October 2021)
Last but not least, the Metropolis is home to two orthodox saints’ sacred relics: Saint Philothei of Athens (1522 - 1589), and Saint Gregorios V, Patriarch of Constantinople (1746 - 1821), are both venerated as martyrs.
Philothei was made a saint because of her philanthropy and the protection she provided to Greek women during the Ottoman thrall.
Gregory V was hung on Easter Sunday in 1821 as retaliation for the Greek independence movement. His marble tomb was carved by Yannoulis Chalepas, one of the most renowned Greek sculptors.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens is considered a major landmark of the capital and is more than deserving of a spot on your bucket list. Whether you pay a visit as a pilgrim or a watcher, the art that lies everywhere around you will surely bewitch you. Don’t miss the chance to light a candle and witness the beautiful design and holy tombs on the inside. The cathedral is open daily during the daytime, and the entrance is free for everyone.
In case you want to attend a mass, the church holds one every Sunday between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., which is accessible to everyone. Make sure to be quiet and enjoy the dense smells coming out of the priest’s censer, as well as the melodic voice of the male choir.
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There are many ways to reach the Metropolitan Church 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.
Car rental: There is the option of renting a car and picking it up directly from the airport, port, or your hotel. Using a rental car allows visitors to discover the Metropolitan Church and many other places of interest in Athens at their own pace.
On foot: As the Metropolitan Church is located in a central area of Athens, it can be easily reached on foot from Syntagma Square or Monastiraki Square in less than 10 minutes.
By metro: The closest metro stations are Syntagma (Red Line and Blue Line) and Monastiraki (Green Line and Blue Line). Note that in order to reach the Metropolitan Church from the metro, a 7-minute walk is needed. Get a map of the metro here.
By bus/trolleybus: Since the Metropolitan Cathedral is one of the most famous areas of Athens, there are many buses that stop nearby. Check the routes and the official timetables on OASA Telematics.