Byzantine & Christian Museum of Athens
ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΝΟ ΚΑΙ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΙΚΟ ΜΟΥΣΕΙΟ
tel.: 213 213 9500
The main building of the Museum is Villa Ilissia (1848), a neo-renaissance style mansion, constructed at the bank of the then uncovered Ilissos river. It was the residence of Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, also known as the “Duchess of Plaisance”. The building was designed by Stamatis Kleanthis, (or according to other sources by Danish architect Hans Christian Hansen). Following the death of the duchess in 1854, the mansion was acquired by the Greek state. It houses the museum since 1930. Two new wings were built in 1952 and 1994.
This Museum possesses one of the leading collections of Byzantine icons (portable, individual paintings and sections of altar screen decoration) in the world. Some of the best specimens of the Byzantine icons exhibited are those of Panagia Glykofilousa from Bithynia, done in mosaic form, the rare wood-carved relief of St. George from Kastoria, the icon of the Archangel Michael, and the well known icon of the crucifixion from Thessaloniki. The museum exhibits, representing 1,700 years of Byzantine art and architecture (3rd to 20th centuries), include 25,000 ecclesiastical objects from Greece, the Balkans, Cyprus, Constantinople and Russia, classified in 11 collections: Sculptures, Mosaics, Murals, Replicas and the Loverdos’ Collection (includes manuscripts, woodcarving crafts, vestments, portable icons etc). A number of frescoes, salvaged from demolished churches in Attica and the Greek islands have also been set up in the museum.
There is also a collection of fabrics and inscriptions from Coptic churches and, in the courtyard, stands a phiale which is a reproduction of a fountain represented in one of the mosaics at Daphni. One of the halls in the museum has been converted into a small Basilica with nave and two aisles, and another into a cruciform church with dome, while a third hall has been converted into a post-Byzantine church. The Museum also hosts important temporary exhibitions and runs educational courses.
The surrounding area serves as a park with an open-air amphitheater, a gift shop, a restaurant-café and recreational facilities.
The grounds are connected to the adjacent archaeological site of “Aristotle’s Lyceum” (i.e. the school where the philosopher taught from 335 B.C. when he founded it until 323 B.C.). Within the site there are remains of the gymnasium [athletic training grounds], the baths, the Teaching Room for ephebes [adolescents], Konistirio (Palaestra - small athletic grounds), Elaiothesion (the Oiling Room - where athletes rubbed their body with oil) and the Reading Room – Library.
Russia in Greece
The exhibition “Icons from the State Tretyakov Gallery’s Collection. - The Russian Icon Painting after the Fall of Constantinople” was presented within the frameworks of the events celebrating 2016 as the year “Russia in Greece – Greece in Russia”.
The exhibition was preceded by the presentation of a distinguished icon of the State Treytakov Gallery’s Collection, the icon of the Ascension, connected with the famous religious painter Andrej Rublev. Officially presented by President Putin and the Greek Prime-Minister in May 2016, the Ascension icon was in display in the Museum premises and contributed, along with the newly arrived icons, to make the Byzantine Museum visitors acquainted with Russian Religious Painting.
Within this context, several works of the State Tretyakov Gallery Collection, were displayed in the Byzantine Museum: icons, some of which are of impressive dimensions, sanctuary doors and even a part of a portable iconostasis, all representing important religious painting centers and workshops of Russia from the 15th to the 19th century. There are works by important Russian religious painters among the exhibits, such as an icon by Dionissy (circa 1440-1502), the famous late-15th-century painter in whose works the Russian spirituality is reflected, as well as icons by Simon Ushakov (1626-1686), the 17th-century painter who made western art infiltrate Russian religious painting tradition.
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