Friday 22 November 2013

Athens: Church of the Metamorphosis (Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος)

Athens: Church of the Metamorphosis   (Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος)

Tucked right under the Acropolis’ north side on Theorias (θεωριας) Street. Open
mornings 10-12:30, or whenever the sacristan feels like it. He’s a nice old gent who doesn't appear to like schedules. I found him on the third try.   Tel: 210 322 4633 or 3245923 Open (Feast Day, August 5)

This 11th century Byzantine tetrastyle cross-in-square church, dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Saviour, is affectionately called “Sotirakis”, the little Saviour, because of its small size.
The West Side

The North Side
It appears without awkward add-ons.  A large arch still visible on the northern exterior outlines the original entrance according to the sacristan; somehow I doubt that, but he claims it is so, and there it is… The north face is in part cloisonné, but the west, as you can see above, is rubble and marble bits, so quite a lot of repairs must have been made over time. Its Athenian style dome is well proportioned but with time has lost the marble facing on top of the windows and just under the tiles. It tine apses are overgrown and grass grows from the roof tiles in spring. All in all, with its tiny churchyard, it blends into the Acropolis hill very prettily.

The Apse

Inside its small dimensions serve to emphasize the height of the dome. Elegant ancient columns, braided at the top, lead the eye up and up into the narrow dome where the Pantocrator still resides. The other original wall paintings are gone. The plain marble templon looks new, but it is in the style of the era.

The Dome with the Pantocrator

These old churches all have stories attached to them. Because many of them were originally funeral chapels, stories of hauntings have proved especially popular. At Sotirakis they said a ghostly calf would appear at midnight and bawl three times  heralding the certain death of a parishioner At another Athenian church, now defunct, a snake with a cat’s head did the business.
Odysseus Androutsos (Οδυσσέας Ανδρούτσος) a Greek hero of the War of Independence is reputed to have been buried here after he was thrown off the Acropolis walls during the War of Independence.  He was unlucky enough to have been considered a traitor at the time. His reputation was later  restored, but his original tomb here is not marked. When his reputation was restored, his bones were dug up and re-interred in  Athens First cemetery, -after a 'proper' funeral attended by his wife and many dignitaries. See 

The attached chapel of Ag. Paraskevi (Ασκητήριων της Αγιας Παρασκυβής) may well have been an earlier cave sanctuary incorporated into Sotirakis during its construction. If you look at it from the outside, it is actually under a large rock. Ag. Paraskevi, as a healer of the blind, is a popular Greek saint.

 Chapel of Ag. Paraskevi

 Apparently she restored the sight of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius in the second century AD and he was grateful enough to stop his pogrom against Christians. His successor Marcus Aurelius was not as impressed and had her executed along with other members of the sect. She is depicted in icons holding one or two eyeballs so, unlike many female saints, she is quite recognizable. Tamata with eyes are placed by her icon.  Her feast day is July 26.

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