Historic Temples

Coordinates: 37.976391, 23.728620

Church of Isodia tis Theotokou (Kapnikarea)

At the center of Athens, at Ermou street, the most commercial street of the capital, there is one of the most important monuments of Byzantine architecture, the church dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary.
The name of the church, Kapnikarea, which probably comes from the profession of the owner, a collector of the so-called "kapnikon" tax. Among othe rnames we also encounter the name "Kamoucharea", from the luxurious Byzantine textile "kamoucha", which was manufactured in the nearby workshops.

The initial church was constructed just after 1050 over an ancient temple, dedicated to Athena or Demetra.

Architecturally it belongs to the type of complex cross-in-square church with a dome. On the northern side they added, soon after its construction, the chapel of Agia Varvara. On the western side, alongside the two churches, there was an open gallery where later, in 1934, when the church became the property of the University of Athens was converted into an exonarthex. On the southern side of the exonarthex there is a colonnaded porch, that dates from the 12th century.

The church is built according to the cloisonné system of masonry of the Middle Byzantine period, while in the lowest part older stones have been placed so that they create the shape of crosses. At the joints of the southern and eastern side there are very few examples of the characteristic ceramic kufic decoration, which mimics Arabic letters. It is interesting that they have incorporated ancient and Early Christian sculptures in its masonry. The dome is of the “Athenian” type, octagonal, with small columns at the corners and lobed windows. At its interior the dome is supported by four ancient columns with Roman capitals.

Of particular importance are the wall paintings of the main church and the tripartite bema. They belong to the style that resembles Byzantine art, which was introduced into modern Greek icon painting by the important writer and painter Photis Kondoglou.

In 1942 Kontoglou painted Theotokos Platytera at the arch of the church, which was his first monumental work. The decoration was completed in 1955 with the help of his cooperators. The wall paintings of the vaulted narthex and the exonarthex, which show western influences, are the work of an unknown artist and date from approximately 1900. The mosaic of Virgin Mary holding Christ at the porch was made by Elli Voila in 1936

The history of the church is a turbulent one. During the liberation struggle it suffered damages, like most of the monuments in Athens.

In 1834 it came close to being demolished, since the Bavarian architect Leon von Klenze, who has undertook the street planning of the new Greek capital, wanted Ermou street to be unified and free of obstacles. The monument was saved thanks to the intervention of the king of Bavaria Ludwig, the father of the young Greek king, Otto.

The church was in danger again in 1863, but it was saved by the adamant reaction of the Metropolitan of Athens.


Contact phone:


11th century


Holy Metropolis: 
Archdiocese of Athens

Under the Supervision of: 
National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

Ermou, Historical Centre

Monastriraki Metro Station

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