(The Holy Apostles)
within the archaeological site of the ancient Agora.
It is one of the earliest byzantine churches in Athens, and is considered to be very important, and of the most distinctive in design, the first of the so-called Athenian style (1000-1025). It belongs to the category of cross-on-square churches, but it combines an octagonal building with a central plan. On the western of the church there is a long tripartite narthex, which unites harmoniously with the main church through openings.
The masonry of the church is cloisonné, where stones are framed by bricks. In some spots there is the characteristic, for churches of the Middle Byzantine Period, ceramic decoration (dentil courses and kufic ornaments, that is decoration that imitates the Arabic alphabet). The dome belongs to the category of the “Athenian” domes. It is an octagonal one with small columns in the corners and marble arched cornices over the windows.
In 1877 the church was renovated and extended to the West. In 1954 the church was restored in its Byzantine form by the American Archaeological School, which had undertaken the excavations at the site of the Ancient Agora. It was decided to strip the building of all later additions and by 1956 the renovation to its current state was concluded.
Iconography and old frescoes were restored, while some post-Byzantine frescoes were moved from the nearby chapel of Agios Spyridon and incorporated here. Up to 1931 the church was the center of an active parish that was demolished during the excavations for the ancient Agora site. The church is declared to be a protected Byzantine monument, and a liturgy takes place once a year on June 30th.
Close around and beneath the church are the remains of several early buildings. The rectangular pit to the south marks the site of a public fountain house of the late 6th c. B.C. Water was supplied by an underground pipeline coming from the east. There is reason to believe that this was the Enneakrounos, the legendary 9-spouted fountain-house built by the family of Peisistratos. To the east of the fountain house and in part overlaid by the church are the foundations of a large building of the 5th c. B.C. that has been identified as the Mint (Argyrokopeion) of ancient Athens. The east end of the church also overlies the foundations of a semicircular Roman-era house, or nymphaion of the 2nd c. A.D. which was built intruding within the Mint.
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