Athens Metropolitan church of Athens

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Location: Syntagma

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 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.

Religious Importance

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.

How to get there

The Metropolitan Cathedral is situated on the homonymous street (Mitropoleos street) in central Athens, between Syntagma and Monastiraki squares. That makes it easy for anyone to pay a visit.

On Foot

The cathedral is equidistant from Syntagma and Monastiraki. In particular, both stations are a 6-minute walk away from your destination.

By Public Transport

Since the building lies close to both metro stations, you can start your walk either from Syntagma or Monastiraki. Syntagma station caters to passengers who use the Red Line (or Line 2) and the Blue Line (or Line 3), while Monastiraki station is convenient for passengers who use the Green Line (or Line 1). Note that Monastiraki station is also a part of the Blue Line (Line 3), so if you’re using that line, it’s up to you where to get off!

If you want to reach the cathedral via a bus, a bus stop lies on the side of the church. It is named "Mitropoli", and routes 025 and 026 stop there. Both stop at Syntagma square, so you can hop on the bus from there. Remember that the bus stop is on Stadiou street, so you’ll have to walk past the fountain and cross the road if coming from Syntagma metro station. Otherwise, you can take the bus from Monastiraki or Thisio (Line 1). The bus stop in Monastiraki lies on Ermou street, 120 m. from the metro station. The bus stop in Thisio also lies on Ermou street, 150 m. from the station. Keep in mind that if you take the bus from Syntagma square, you’ll have to use the routes departing from Ippokratous street (025: Ippokratous - Profiti Daniil and 026: Ippokratous - Votanikos), but if you take the bus from Monastiraki or Thisio, you’ll have to hop on the routes heading to Ippokratous street (025: Profiti Daniil - Ippokratous and 026: Votanikos - Ippokratous).

By taxi

If you prefer to approach the place via a vehicle, we strongly recommend taking a taxi. The reason is that you’ll probably get frustrated looking for a parking spot in the narrow and always crowded streets around the cathedral. If staying in the region of central Athens, the cab fare won’t cost you much. The distance from the upper side of Syntagma square (across the Greek Parliament) is around 800m, so the ride won’t last more than 5-7 minutes, depending on the traffic.

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 am and 10:30 am, 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.

If you're planning on soaking up the historical sites of Athens, book one of our tours now! We provide you with a wide range of options, so you can pick the one(s) that meet your expectations the most!

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