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The Mitropolis, Athens’ cathedral, was completed in 1855 having been built from the remnants of over 70 demolished churches, including a zodiac calendar. On Good Friday evening, the famous candlelight procession takes place here.
The impressive interior, allegedly inspired by St Mark’s in Venice, is bedecked with splendid marble pulpit, floor and columns, huge candelabra, and religious paintings shining with silver revetment. Every inch is covered ic colourful geometric paintwork and mosaics. To the right of the entrance, a silver ossuary bears the sacred remains of Gregory V, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople; the ossuary on the lfet holds the relics of a 16th-century martyr.
The cathedral is open in the morning, and also from around 5pm to 7 or 8pm and can be found Pandrosou, which ends in the spacious Platia Mitropoleos.
Beside the cathedral is the tiny and lovely Agios Eleftherios, the ‘little Mitropolis’. Check it out afterwards.
Three more notable churches are nearby. The 11th-century Kapnikarea, on Ermou, is one of Athens’ best-preserved Byzantine churches. A modern master, Fotis Kondoglou, was responsible for the fine paintings inside.
Just around the corner on Aiolou, the city’s older cathedral, Agii Irini, has a blues domed porch painted with the star of Vergina, the venerable symbol of the Greek Macedonian people.
Sheltering under concrete columns at Mitropoleos and Pendelis, the tiny chapel of Agia Dinamis (meaning ‘the strong’) has held out against the modern office block built around it. Inside, faded frescos with silver and bronze revetment are pained on its walls.
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Beside the Mitropolis cathedral is the tiny and lovely Agios Eleftherios, the ‘little Mitropolis’, which is affectionately known as Our Lady Quick-to-answer-Prayers. It was built 800 years ago from much earlier columns and beams.
Over the main door, a 4th-century BC pagan frieze has been nearly obliterated – stamped with the Latin cross by later Christians.
However, if you look carefully you can still see the wheels of the ship bearing Athena’s robe in the Panatheniac procession. This is all that’s left of the known artistic rendering of the famous ship.
Built by the astronomer Andronikos in the 1st century BC. It once contained an elaborate water clock that was fed by a spring on the Acropolis. Sculptures on each of the eight sides of the octagonal marble tower represent the eight points of the compass and the corresponding wind.
You’ll spot Notos, the south end, pouring water from an urn, while Zephyros, the west wind, scatters spring flowers.
Spread out below the tower are the remains of the Roman Forum (Romaiki Agora). On the far side, the four Doric columns were part of the Gate of Athena Archegetis, which marked the main entrance to the market area. One door support, protected by a rusty iron grille, is inscribed with Emperor Hadrian’s edict taxing olive oil.
Ringed by banks, deluxe hotels, generic fastfood eateries and travel agencies, Syntagma (Constitution) Square is the central reference point for the most visitors to Athens. It also makes a convenient rendezvous spot for Athenians working in the city centre. Orange trees, cypresses and palms somehow survive the fumes that are emitted by constant traffic swinging into Syntagma from eight major thoroughfares.
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