Agios Ioannis at Kolona Ι.Ν. ΑΓΙΟΥ ΙΩΑΝΝΗ ΣΤΗΝ ΚΟΛΩΝΑ (St. John at the Column) 70, Evripidou St., Downtown
A strange sight, an ancient Corinthian column protrudes trough the roof of the little church of St. John the Baptist in Athens.
The Christian church was built atop an ancient sanctuary of Asclepios, the ancient Greek deity of medicine and healing, and this little church, just a few feet each way, is said to have been founded in 565 AD, thus it may be the oldest christian church in Athens. Underneath its foundations flows the ancient river of Eridanos, and several wells are known to have been created through time to deposit this precious commodity. During our visit, the church caretaker told me that following a rainy day one can hear the gulping sounds of the water as it fills the cavities and then rushes on to meet the sea.
A tall Corinthian column, intact and surviving time is set at the place of the altar and goes uninhibited through the wooden roof of the church. Bizarre at first sight, it is actually moving as to the testimony that this very location has always been associated with healing the human pain. The Greek-Orthodox church, linked to its historic legend in healing several diseases, is dedicated to St. John the Baptist (Agios Ioannis o Vaptistis) who is thought to be a healer of all sicknesses of the head. Having asked politely, visitors may be allowed to see the offerings on the column offered by the faithful expressing gratitude to the saint for his help. The walls of the small church are covered with icons with several subject matters, with St. John the Baptist being the predominant one.
Old photograph of the church of Agios Ioannis at Kolona, Athens.
In 1917 during excavations west of the little church on Evripidou Street, a mosaic floor and christian-era sculpture dating to the 5th c. AD were unearthed. The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist and celebrates on August 29th. Liturgy takes place once a month or so and on special occasions by the priest of the church of Agios Demetrios of Psyri. 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!