Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris Ι. Ν. ΑΓΙΟΥ ΔΗΜΗΤΡΙΟΥ ΛΟΥΜΠΑΡΔΙΑΡΗ Philopappou, Hill of the Muses
The church of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris, Philopappou
The "Diateichisma" wall was built by the Athenians at the end of the 4th century BC in order to confront the approaching danger from the Macedonians.
The new wall, which established a boundary on the crests of the Hill of the Muses (Philopappos Hill), the Pnyx, and the Hill of the Nymphs and towards the North and South connected with the older Themistoclean Wall, reduced the extent of the fortified area of the city from the West, leaving unprotected large parts of the Demos of Melite and the one of Koile, is identified, thanks to an ancient inscription, as the "Dipylon over the Gates". The south gate of the "Diateichisma" between the Hill of the Muses and the Pnyx, at the axis of the most important commercial and traffic artery of Athens, the "Road through Koile".
Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris. Side view. Photograph by John Vellis.
This middle wall, 900 meters long, which was built as a compartment wall, had two gates at its junctures with the Hills and was fortified with both rectangular and circular towers. In the mid-3rd c. BC the "Diateichisma" saw extensive repair in white porous stone, the original technique was abandoned, and its course was modified in the area of the Pnyx. In Justinian times, and at the 6th c. AD the wall was reinforced and new towers were added.
From the 4th c. BC up to the Medieval times the "Diateichisma" was kept in repair and served as the first line of defense for the City of Athens from the West. East of the Dipylon over the Gates is a small roadside shrine, epigraphically recorded as dedicated to the homeric hero Aias or to Gods Hercules, Athena but also the Demos as protectors of the Gates. Since the byzantine era, the warrior St. Demetrios has been worshiped at that same spot.
Agios Demetrios is a beautiful 12th c. small church of the vaulted single-aisle basilica type. The construction of the chapel is probably associated with the final phase of the fortification wall (12th c. A.D.). Inside the church, the frescoes date to 1732 according to the building inscription. According to tradition, the surname "Loumbardiaris" (the Bombardier) is due to the fact that the church was saved by a miracle around 1640-1650, when Yusuf, the then Turkish commander of the Acropolis, bombed the church from the Propylaea of the Acropolis. The following day, lightning struck the Propylaea, killing Yusuf and his entire family. The church has undergone several changes over time. Its current form, complete with open spaces and the Kylikeion aka Peripteron, owe to the restoration of its Post-Byzantine phase by the renowned architect Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968) in the early 1960s.
The Kylikeion aka Peripteron, at Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris, by architect Dimitris Pikionis.
The back side of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris. Photograph by John Vellis.
Pikionis was also responsible for the restoration works of the church which were carried out in 1955. On the exterior he added marble and ceramic decorative themes to the monument. In addition, he removed the newer wall paintings and as a result the older ones from the 18th century were revealed. The built screen mentions the kontakion (type of hymn) for the inauguration of churches.
Thanks to its beautiful location, a lot of young couples choose the church of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris for their wedding, and yours truly was baptized there.
Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki is a Christian Great Martyr. During the Middle Ages, he came to be revered as one of the most important Orthodox military saints, often paired with Saint George. His feast day is October 26th for Orthodox Christians following the Gregorian calendar and November 8th for those following the Julian calendar.
He was a Christian and the only son of the military commander of the city of Thessaloniki in the early fourth century. St. Demitrios was most cherished and well educated. When his father died, he was appointed by Emperor Maximian to take his place and to persecute and to kill the Christians in that city. Demitrios, instead, disobeyed Maximian and openly confessed and preached Christianity. Hearing of this, the Emperor was furious and, on his way back from battles against the Sarmathians, he went to Thessalonica to look into the matter. He summoned Demitrios and questioned him. Demitrios confessed his faith as well as his disgust for idololatry. The enraged Emperor imprisoned him and Demitrios, knowing his fate, had his servant Lupus give his wealth to the poor. Several days later, the Emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill Demitrios. The soldiers came into the cell finding the Saint at prayer, and killed him with their spears. Christians secretly took his body and buried it, and his relics began producing a healing fragrant myrrh. A small church was soon built on site. When Leontius, an Illyrian nobleman, ran prayerfully up to the relics of St. Demitrios and was completely cured of an incurable disease, he built a much larger church replacing the small one. The Saint appeared on several occasions. When Emperor Justinian attempted to move the Saint's relics to Constantinople, flames shot out of the tomb and a voice commanded them to "Leave them there, and don't touch!" and thus the relics have remained since in Thessaloniki. As the defender of Thessaloniki, St. Demitrios is believed to have appeared on several occasions and saved the city in times of trouble.
Detail from the stone wall of the church of Agios Demetrios Loumbardiaris as designed by architect Demetris Pikionis.
Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968) was an inspired architect, city-planner, artist and stage designer. Along with his students he executed the most important architectural and landscaping project in modern Athens between 1954 and 1958, encompassing an area of 80,000 m2. The project included the creation of two pedestrian walkways ending in two loops. The first approaches the site of the Acropolis itself and the other leads away from it towards the Hill of the Muses (Philopappos Hill).
The structure of Pikionis' pedestrian walkways, utilizing paving blocks, reused marble elements from demolished neoclassical buildings as well as byzantine and folk motifs is entirely original. The landscaping of the area was done with respect to the ancient topography. Pikionis' internationally recognized, award-winning project, in it's time called "a creation of highly aesthetic character" was declared a protected historical monument and work of art by the Greek Ministry of Culture in 1996.