Tuesday 26 November 2013

Athens: Megali Panagia inside Hadrian’s Library

The site of Hadrian’s Library is open from 8:30 – 2:45 daily

 Walk inside the shell of  Hadrian’s library and the scanty outline of a monumental triconch church can still be made out. Triconch means that the apse and the two side aisles of the nave were rounded like flower petals - a popular contemporary design. This was the Megali Panagia  built in the early  5th century and  Athens’ first Christian church. It was elongated into a basilica in the 7th century and used as late as the Frankish occupation and during some years of the Turkish period  as the Episcopal church.  Now, except for the triconch outline and a few columns of the 7th century church, it is dust in the wind.
Here you see the original church on the right of the picture( which looks tetraconch to me!) and the rectangular 7th century add-on.

The base of one of the conches

That flooring could be classical but isn't. Old styles persisted -and why not when it was as decorative as this?

You come across these  early Christian churches all over Greece.  Like dinosaur bones, they are white, massive, and often incomplete,- imposing on a good day, and kind of sad on a bad one. But they are a poignant and pointed reminder that in the early years, the church was far more congregational in spirit that it would become in after 800 when churches and worship became a far more private affair.


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