Little Metropolis (Athens)
One of my favourite churches in Athens that have particularly captured my heart is the Little Metropolis Athens, a hidden gem among the many famous churches in Athens. Even if you’re not a fan of churches, it’s worth a visit just to experience a serene place to escape the bustling city streets. In that case, the Little Metropolis Athens is a must-visit during your stay in the Greek capital.
Nestled in the heart of Athens, the Little Metropolis is right next to the grand Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, and just a few minutes walk from the Church of Panagia Kapnikarea, making it easy to find and convenient for travellers to explore the city’s religious sites. It goes by many names, including the Holy Church of the Virgin Mary Gorgoepikoos and Saint Eleutherius, Church of St. Eleutherios or the Panagia Gorgoepikoos. Yet, this small yet enchanting church has a rich history that dates back to the late 12th century, when it was constructed with materials from ancient Greek and Roman structures.
The church is dedicated to two entities. The first dedication is to the Virgin Mary, as “Panagia Gorgoepikoos” translates to “Virgin Mary, the Quick to Hear”. The second dedication is to St. Eleftherios, a Christian martyr and saint highly regarded in the Eastern Orthodox Church. This dual dedication makes the church even more unique and spiritually significant, adding to the many reasons why a visit to the Little Metropolis is a must during your time in Athens.
The Little Metropolis Athens was initially built as a Greek Orthodox church, and its architectural style is an intriguing blend of Byzantine and Romanesque influences. This unique fusion is a testament to the diverse cultural heritage of Athens, and you’ll be fascinated to see how these two distinct styles come together in perfect harmony. The church’s intricate marble reliefs and ornate iconostasis are particularly impressive. As you step inside, you’ll be struck by the sense of tranquillity and reverence that pervades this sacred space.
What sets the Little Metropolis Athens apart from other churches in Athens is its intimate atmosphere and modest size, which make it a perfect spot for quiet reflection and meditation. Despite its small stature, the church is an architectural marvel, and its beautiful exterior is adorned with detailed carvings that tell stories from the Bible and Greek mythology. As you take a leisurely stroll around the church, you’ll notice the intricate craftsmanship of its marble decorations, which are thought to have been repurposed from ancient buildings.
Over the centuries, the Little Metropolis has also served purposes other than being a church. During the Ottoman occupation of Greece, it was converted into a mosque and, at one point, even functioned as a warehouse. In 1834, after the Greek War of Independence, the church housed the National Library of Greece briefly until a more suitable location was established. Thankfully, it was eventually restored to its original function as a Greek Orthodox church and is now a top church to visit in Athens. This only adds to the remarkable history and diverse roles this small but significant church has played throughout the centuries, making it an even more fascinating destination to visit during your stay in Athens.
Another reason to include the Little Metropolis Athens in your travel itinerary is its connection to the local community. As a functioning church, it still holds regular services and is cherished by the city’s residents. By visiting this charming cathedral, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the important role of religion in Athenians’ daily lives, as well as a glimpse into the city’s rich historical tapestry.
In a city filled with famous churches and cathedrals, the Little Metropolis Athens stands out for its distinctive architecture, captivating history, and peaceful ambience. Whether you’re a history buff or simply seeking a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of Athens, this beautiful church is a destination you won’t want to miss. So, while planning your trip to this ancient city, add the Little Metropolis to your list of must-see attractions. The memories you’ll create during your visit will surely stay with you long after you’ve returned home.
To summarise, the Little Metropolis Athens deserves a spot on your Athens itinerary. Its beautiful and unique architectural style, fascinating history, and serene atmosphere make it a truly special destination. As you wander the charming streets of Athens, take the time to explore this beautiful church and immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage.