Agios Elissaios Ι. Ν. ΑΓΙΟΥ ΕΛΙΣΣΑΙΟΥ 14, Areos Street, Monastiraki (not accessible while a major renovation takes place next door)
At 14 Areos street, near Monastiraki Square and opposite Hadrian’s Library is the small church dedicated to St. Elissaios, the Prophet, which has been related to some of the most important Greek men of letters.
The church of Agios Elissaios.
The church of Agios Elissaios in the courtyard of the new Folk Art Museum, in Athens.
The church of Agios Elissaios, Athens.
The small church was constructed during the Turkish occupation, in mid 17th c. It belonged to the Athenian family of Chomatianos-Logothetis and was located in the garden of their mansion, whose ruins can be seen right next to it. It was a private church but accessible to the wide public. In the end of the 19th c. and the beginning of the 20th c. it became known for the all-night vigils that took place with the participation of some of the most important men of letters of that period: Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911), one of the most important Greek literary figures, chanted with his cousin Alexandros Moraitidis (1850-1929), the later saint Nikolaos Planas was responsible for the service, while there are testimonies for the presence of, among others, the authors Zacharias Papantoniou (1877-1940), Pavlos Nirvanas (1866-1938) and Giannis Vlachogiannis (1867-1945) and of Agios Nectarios of Pentapolis.
In 1943-1944, the owner of the area at that time, who incidentally was the last one, demolished a significant part of the church, in spite of the reactions from archaeologists and architects alike, and thus only the foundation and part of the southern wall remained. Later, the property was expropriated by the Ministry of Culture and in 2004 the building was restored to a large extent.
The form of the church until the 19th c. is known solely from descriptions and drawings of travelers. It was small in dimensions (its capacity was no more than 50-60 people) and was a simple one-aisle, wooden roofed basilica. Its masonry was simple, with walled-in ancient and Byzantine reliefs, while it had a remarkable painting decoration, which was destroyed and replaced in 1921 by lower quality wall paintings. Nowadays from the original form of the church only the floor, the Altar, the marble threshold and fragments of the murals are preserved. The sculpture that was found here have been transferred to Hadrian’s Library, while some of them have been used again, such as the marble pediment with the cross over the altar’s arch. The small church is now located in the courtyard of a series of renovated neoclassical buildings that will be forming the new Folk Art Museum of Athens in the near future.