The church of Agia Ekaterini is located at the intersection of Herefontos and Lysikratous streets at a busy and beautiful spot of the most picturesque district of Athens, Plaka, which attracts a lot of tourists.The church is situated in the old Alikokkou district in the historic neighborhood of Plaka between Hadrian's Arch and the Lysikrates Monument, on Agia Ekaterini Square.
The church has been constructed on top of an ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess Artemis. The central part of the church dates back to the middle of the 11th century during the Byzantine period. It is the oldest example of the cross plan, four-columned church with the central dome that can be found in Athens.
The church was constructed at the place where Irene, wife of the emperor Theodosius II, founded the Church of St. Theodore in the fifth century and up until 1767 the church was dedicated to him, as indicated by the votive inscription preserved in a fragment of a big, cylindrical column supporting the altar. In 1767 it became property of the Metochi of the Monastery of Agia Ekaterini in Sinai, so that all priests who came from Sinai to Athens could stay here, and so it took its name from the Saint. It is believed that priests from Sinai were the ones who planted the palm trees around the church creating a unique oasis for the visitors. In this church there are holy remnants of St. Polydoros of Cyprus, St. Athanassios of Persia, and St. Tryphon. These relics were brought here by the priest Cyrilos Psylas who was exiled from Ephesos in 1922. In the end of the 19th century the frescoes of the church were created by G. D. Kaphis or Kaphetzidakis. The narthex was added at the middle of the 20th century. The initial Byzantine church was a four-columned, cross-in-square church. On its eastern part there is a tripartite altar with semicircular arches while on the western part at the entrance is the tripartite narthex. During the Greek Revolution there were some damages to the monument. After 1839 in order to satisfy the needs of the congregation they carried out alterations and additions on the northern, southern and western sides, while later they made some changes to the dome.
Among the icons the most remarkable are the ones of Ioannis Prodromos, Agia Ekaterini of the right marble shrine, the enthroned Virgin Mary on the left marble shrine, and Agios Spyridon. Finally, within the church courtyard, the visitors can discern several architectural members of ancient buildings, including the ruins of a Roman stoa with both erect and fallen columns.that still survive.
The church celebrates on November 25th.
For a page with Basic Architectural Terminology, including terms used in the description of the ancient Greek temples and the Orthodox churches of Athens, click here!
Medieval Athens Tour
Team-up with a knowledgeable tour guide on a private tour and explore the secrets of Medieval Athens. Discover the living proofs of the mighty Byzantine Empire, visit historic churches, stroll around the streets of the old city and explore one of the most interesting and turbulent time periods of Athens.