Church of Panagia Acheiropoietos
The church of Panagia Acheiropoietos it is the most important example of old Christian basilica in Greece, and one of the most magnificent early Christian monuments (UNESCO World Heritage List).
From written sources we see that the church from its foundation, in the middle of the 5th century, it was dedicated to Virgin Mary. The church was named Acheiropoietos (not made by hands) is encountered for the first time in a document of 1320 and is related to the icon of Virgin Mary that was formed inside the church in a miraculous manner, not made by human hands.
The church also honored Agios Dimitrios. As a matter of fact, for this reason, during the Byzantine period, the church was a necessary stop of the procession that took place on the eve of the day of the saint’s celebration.
The church of Acheiropoietos is built over a complex of Roman public baths. Architecturally it belongs to the type of three-aisled basilica, with a wooden roof and a gallery (gynaeconite). The northern aisle of the church ends on the east at the chapel of Agia Irini from the Middle Byzantine period.
From the church’s rich interior architectural decoration what stand out are the columns and the complex Corinthian capitals. They are made from the famous white marble of Proconnesos and were made in the workshops of Constantinople. Also excellent are the two columns of the tribelion, made of green Thessalian marble.
Of particular interest are the mosaics that are preserved in the inside of the arches of the colonnades. Plant and geometrical motifs, animals and Christian symbols have been depicted with exceptional artistry. The mosaics are distinguished for the unique artist quality of the time and the perfect technical knowledge of the mosaic masters of Thessaloniki workshop in the early Christian period.
The few wall paintings that decorate the southern aisle of the church date from the 13th century and barely survive. The figures depicted are military saints and are part of the representation of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
This important church is a unique example of Early Christian architecture and is the first church of the city that was converted into a mosque by the Turks, in 1430 until 1912. The internal decorations were damaged by the Turks.
Source: Archdiocese of Athens and History of the City and the Municipality