22 March 2019
13 °
Church of Panagia of Kapnikarea
Ermou Street
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Churches and Monasteries/Churches and Monasteries
The church dates back to the early 10nth century (1050AC), and it is one of the most beautiful oeuvre of the Byzantine period in the centre of Athens. It is located in the middle of Ermou Street. The limited use of dentils and the arrangement of the windows also lead to the dating of the building. Variations' regarding the origin of the church's name exists according to several theories. The one that still prevailed is the Kapnikarea , which relates the Kapnikarea family, which was responsible that time to collect the“kapnikon”- a certain tax imposed by the Byzantines- around the eighth century- to the houses that had chimneys ( kapnodohos ).Older documents frequently refer to the church with the name “Kamoucharea'', kamoucha is a luxurious textile, due to the fact that at that time people were selling this kind of fabrics, located there.  The church also used to be called the “Princess church”, based on the tradition that relates Athens with the Athenians Byzantine Empresses.  The name Panagia Kapnikarea dominates and it is used today.  The architecture of the church is of a complex cross-in-square plan, tetrastyle which are reposed to capitals of the Romanesque period.
It was constructed in remembrance and dedication of the Entrance of Virgin Mary to the temple. Shortly after the foundation of the church, a chapel dedicated to Saint Barbara was constructed on the north side. The exonarthex extending all over the western side of the church was added in the third quarter of the 11th century. On the south side of the narthex a small colonnaded entrance which on the upper side a semicircular conch exist, was added in the twelfth century.  On the west side are sculptures in relief and inscriptions in Kufic motifs, the presence of them should be emphasized.  Of great importance, is the icon of the Virgin Plaritera , a work of art employed by the famous hagiographer Fotis Kontoglou . The rest of the church's icons are identified as a work of him and of his students dated around the 1942. The opus mosaic floor over the entrance is a work of Ellie Voila created in 1936.  The church survived from being demolished twice, but thanks to the intervention of Ludwig of Bavaria, father of King Otto, in 1836 was survived.  The second danger of demolition was abolished thanks to the intervention of Archibishop of Athens in 1863. The church of Kapnikarea nowadays is under the supervision of the University of Athens-School of Theology. The church is under the jurisdiction of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens.
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