July 2008 Newsletter: Special Feature
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 Special Feature: Heritage Walks in Athens
 5th Heritage Walk: Medieval and Neoclassical Athens

(Continued from June's Issue)

Monastiraki Station
Acropolis Station

The 5th walk guides us through the business center of 19th-century Athens. It also takes us to the finest churches of the 10th and 11th centuries, architecturally impressive buildings with elegant decoration, and to the main neoclassical churches of the 19th century, that have very little in common with the former.

Athens Heritage Walk 5 MapPSYRRI AREA: One of the oldest areas in Athens, known as "Psyrri" since Ottoman times. One explanation of the name is that it refers to someone from the island of Psara: another that it refers to someone called Psyrris, a large proprietor in the area. Nowadays it boasts many theatres, restaurants and bars that attract crowds of young people during evening hours.

(1) IROON SQUARE (HEROES' SQUARE): Named after the heroes of the Greek Revolution (1821). In the last quarter of the 19th century this was a gathering area for all sorts of self-appointed "heroes" and bullies of the time, the "koutsavakides", "trampoukoi", and "mortides" (the last two words are still current in Greek). These were the subject of some concern in Athens' small society until the government of Harilaos Trikoupis cleared up the situation towards the end of the nineteenth century.

(2) ATHINAS STREET MARKET: The market developed in the last quarter of the 19th century. Its clientele grow markedly after the old agora (bazaar) was destroyed by fire in 1884.


(3) CITY HALL: Construction began in 1872 when the then Mayor of Athens, Panayis Kyriakos, borrowed 130,000 "drachmae". from the National Bank of Greece and began the construction of the City Hall to a design by Panayis Kalkos. The work was completed in May 1874, thanks to the financial support of I. Kontoyannakis. The last floor was added in the late 1930s, along with the paintings on the interior walls, the work of the distinguished artists Photis Kontoglou and Georgios Gounaropoulos. The City Hall is built in a strict neoclassical style.

MUNICIPAL THEATER: Once, in the middle of the square, stood what was described as "the finest theatre in Europe". The Municipal Theatre's foundations were laid in 1857, with F. Boulanger as architect, but it was completed in 1888 with financial support from Andreas Syngros on the basis of designs by Ernest Ziller. It was demolished in 1939 by order of C. Kotzias, then Minister and Head of Administration of the Capital District.

(4) NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE BUILDING: The National Bank of Greece was founded by Georgios Stavrou in 1841, and moved to the Kyriakos Domnados' mansion (at the corner of Aiolou & Georgiou Stavrou Sts) in 1842. In 1852, the adjoining Feraldi building (it once housed the "Anglia" Hotel, the best hotel of its time in Athens) was purchased and incorporated in the Bank Building. The impressive facade that serves both buildings, thought to be the work of the French architect E. Troump, was added in 1894.

(5) MEGARO MELA: Built in 1874, to designs by Ernest Ziller and by Vasileios Melas, who called it "Mega Xenodoheion" (Great Hotel). During most of the 20" century (1900-1974) it housed a Post Office. In 1974 it was leased by the National Bank of Greece.

(6) THEMISTOCLEIAN WALL: Found and preserved under the new building of the National Bank of Greece on Sofocleous St it has been preserved and is visible today. Here were the Acharman Gates that led to the ancient Acharnai, today Menidi. In the Stoa of Immortals close by was the Gate to Menidi called Gate of the Holy Apostles, in the wall of Haseki built in 1776.

(7) AIOLOU ST: One of the city's central streets that dates from 1835. Today it is a pedestrian area where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll amidst the trafficfilled city center.

(8) CHRYSOSPILIOTISSA CHURCH: The larger part of the church was built in 1863-1878 under the supervision of P. Kalkos, based on an earlier design by D. Zezos, who died before completion of the main works. It was finally completed in 1888 under the supervision of Ernest Ziller, who was also the designer of the iconostasis. The dome was designed by D. Soutsos, the then Mayor of Athens. The church is a mixture of the neo-Byzantine style with features borrowed from other styles and from antiquity. The paintings were the work of S. Chatzogiannopoulos, and the interior decoration is by V. Kotas and A. Petas.

(9) CHURCH OF AGIA EIRINI: After the end of the Turkish occupation, the small and derelict church of Agia Eirini was repaired and used as the temporary Cathedral of Athens. Construction of a new church, designed by the architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou, started in 1846. This structure was built in monastic style, with three semi-circular niches and a dome. On the exterior, the architect attempted, without total success, to accommodate ecclesiastical architecture within the neoclassical style. The paintings in this popular church are by S. Chatzogiannopoulos. The work was completed in 1892. Today it is famous for its excellent ecclesiastical chant.

(10) ERMOU ST: Commercially the busiest street in Athens from the end of the 19`h century until today. It starts at the Kerameikos and ends at Syntagma Square, exactly opposite the Greek Parliament, which dominates it. It was made a pedestrian area in the 1990s.

(11) KAPNIKAREA: Church dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple. The central structure was built in the 11th century, and is of the complex four-columned cross-in-square type. In the 12th century were added the narthex and the chapel of Agia Varvara to the north, followed by the exonarthex in the 13th century. It retains Byzantine cloisonné masonry, beautiful wall decoration with dog-tooth brick patterns, Kufic ornaments and an Athenian-style dome.
The name Kapnikarea probably ownes its origin to the profession of the proprietor-donor of the church, a Kapnikaris (hearth tax collector). The tax referred to the hearth and chimney in each household. It is a church of exceptional beauty that came close to being demolished four times, and four times was saved thanks to the Bavarian King Ludwig 1, the father of Otho. Today, the church belongs to Athens University and is famous for its chant. *Most of the paintings inside the church are the work of the important painter Photis Kontoglou, in 1955.

(12) CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION: The foundations were laid in Christmas 1842. Originally designed by Theofilos Hansen, and re-designed after a long period of inactivity (due to lack of finances) by D. Zezos, Francois Boulanger and P. Kalkos. Finally, the church opened in May 1862. The paintings are by S. Yalinas and Alexander Maximilian Seitz; the interior decoration is the work of K. Fanellis and G. Fytalis.

(13) CHURCH OF AGIOS ELEUTHERIOS OR - PANAGHIA GORGOEPIKOOS: A church of the late 12th century, situated to the south of the Cathedral. It is an unique building, built entirely from the ruins of ancient and early Christian structures, and thought to be the work of the archaeophile Bishop Michael Choniatis. Note the sculpted Attic calendar that decorates the facade. Until the mid 19th century, the church was dedicated to Panaghia Gorgoepikoos (that is fast to respond).

(14) ADRIANOU ST: A street with a long history, known as the alley of the Chrysaliotissa during the Frankish and Ottoman years. Named after the small church of Panaghia Chrysaliotissa, founded by the Miseralioti family, a Frankish family that became hellenised. It is the central street of Plaka.

(15) 2nd PRIMARY SCHOOL OF ATHENS (today: 74th PRIMARY SCHOOL): Built in 1874 by the architect Panayis Kalkos, in neoclassical style. It succeeded one of Athens' mosques, the mosque of the Column, that was on the same site. During the 20th century it was known (and still is) as Campanis' School, after the enlightened teacher Vassileios Campanis, who worked here for 35 years. To commemorate his work, the graduate students of the school put up his statue in front of the building.





To read about these 4 locations, please refer to our March newsletter featuring Heritage Walk #1

Excerpt from: "Heritage Walks in Athens" by the Municipality of Athens Cultural Organization,
and by the Elliniki Etairia Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and the Cultural Heritage

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