Friday 29 November 2013

Oddball Churches: Ag Sostis in Athens On Syngrou

Oddball Churches: Ag Sostis (Aγ Σώστης)
  in Athens On Syngrou

131 Syngrou Ave.  (2 blocks from the Ledra Marriot Hotel), τελ 210 933 5460. Open all day every day. In high summer closed from 1-5pm.

Ag  Sostis looks solid enough but it was moved piece by piece to Athens  from Paris in 1902 where it had been purpose built as a window into Greek life for the Paris Exposition of 1900.

In Paris: courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum Archives

It remained there for seven months as the Greek Pavilion. Its architect was Lucien Magne, a graduate of l'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris; he was an inspired choice.  
Magne  created an  octagonal domed crossed  inscribed Church by alternating dusky pink with thinner blue enameled tiles on the outside and supporting the dome on the inside with  highly decorated wrought iron pillars and arches in the art nouveau style so popular in Paris at the time. 

The wrought iron motif was used throughout,  for the windows and doors as well. 

One of the pillars showing one of the triangular squinches needed to hold up the octagonal dome

A close up of a pillar shows the art nouveau influence in the intricate decoration and just how beautiful this workmanship is.

The interior of the church is light, modern, and  and airy even; it is not hard to imagine it once filled with exhibits of Greek life in 1900.  The modernity show in the sand-filled container for candles at the church entrance. It has a sophisticated extractor to make sure the candle smoke goes directly up rather than smudging the wall paintings. This innovation has put paid to smoky interiors and blackened walls.  Still, it seems a tad like cheating but at least the smoke rises towards heaven.

Ag  Sostis weighed in at just  under 150 tons.  Spiros Mercouri,  grandfather of Melina Mercouri,  who was mayor of Athens at the time brought it to Athens where it stands among mature trees beside the busy avenue.  Apparently he was quite a character as well as a visionary who loved his small granddaughter and delighted in her intelligence.  In a less visionary moment he told her with regret that she could have grown up to be important in any field she chose, if only she hadn’t been a girl...

When the pavillion became a church it was given the name Ag Sostis  (Holy Saviour) in honour of King George 1st  of Greece who had been ‘saved’ by the grace of God  from an assassins bullet nearby in 1898. Its longer name, the Transformation of the Saviour, (Μεταμόρφωσης του Σωτήρος) is hardly ever used.
(As a footnote, Ag Sostis was too far away to help the king on March 18th 1913; he was in Thessaloniki on that day and there an assassin’s bullet did find its mark and killed him)


1 comment:

  1. Hi there! Nice stuff, do keep me posted when you post again something like this!
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