The great acceptance of our article “Revealing secrets sights in Athenian suburbs“, gave us the inspiration to search even more and find new unknown (to most) sights in the suburbs of Athens. As we have mentioned and in our previous post although we sometimes know the existence of these places, we are not always aware of their real significance and historical importance. In this article we present (in chronological order) 6 new unique places in the Athenian suburbs.
Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Daphne / Haidari (Ιερό της Αφροδίτης στο Δαφνί / Χαϊδάρι): Along the route of the ancient Sacred Road (Iera Odos/ Ιερά Οδός), Pausanias mentions the existence of a temple of Aphrodite. On the right side of Athinon – Korinthou National Road as you are approaching Skaramangas it is not hard to notice the ancient sanctuary. You can see multiple quadrangular niches that were carved on the rock of the hill on which the ancient temple was built. The purpose of the four-sided recesses was to place votive offerings (tamata / τάματα in Greek) by the pilgrims. Due to the recesses, the area was named by the modern inhabitants “ntoulapakia / ντουλαπάκια” (which means lockers) or “parathyrakia / παραθυράκια” (which means small windows). The main temple in front of the rock was a small square nave with pronaos. It was probably in Doric rhythm and had a marble housing. The date of the building cannot be determined with certainty but the duration of the worship could be traced from the second half of the 5th century BC until Roman times. Outside the main temple and on a slightly deviating axis, a small house with various spaces was built, which has been supposed to have served as a house for priests. This open-air place of worship was used during the celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Ελευσίνια Μυστήρια) and was one of the stops of the pilgrims who participated in the procession towards Eleusis. Interestingly, in the documentary Mourning Rock (Αγέλαστος Πέτρα) by Filippos Koutsaftis in 2000, it is documented that until today, young girls from the neighbouring area came here to place offerings in the recesses and wish for a good husband.
The Lion of Pallini / Kantza (Το Λιοντάρι της Παλλήνης / Κάντζας): The district of Kantza in the municipality of Pallini is also known as Leontario / Λεοντάριο (which means lion). The name Leontario derives from the big ancient marble lion that has been found in the area, which today stands imposing in the courtyard of the post-Byzantine church of Agios Nikolaos (St Nicholas). The temple was built on the ruins of an archaic cemetery, which was discovered after excavations in 1986. Τhe statue is made of Pentelic marble (surviving height 1.50 m and length 1.40 m) and has been dated to the end of the 4th BC. Its tail and four limbs are not saved, while its snout has been damaged. Μost likely the lion was a burial signal for a tumulus for the fallen soldiers at the Battle of Pallini (επί Παλληνίδι μάχη) which took place in the area in 541 BC. In the battle, the tyrant Peisistratos defeated his Athenian opponents and established tyranny in Athens. Many hundred years later the folk tradition linked the statue to the legend of a wild lion, which (supposedly) lived in a large cave on Mount Hymettus and devoured people and their animals in the area. The lion was finally killed by Agios Nikolaos, in whose honor a 16th century church has been built there. The lion is also mentioned in the descriptions of many 18th century travellers. One of them, the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, wrote that after two and half hours of riding he rested “near a ruined church, next to a large olive tree and a marble lion, the usual ancient monument in tombs.” Today just 1 km from Lavriou Avenue, the Lion and the small church is a wonderful and peaceful place which most of the passers-by ignore its existence.
Waterbridge of Hadrian’s Aqueduct (Υδατογέφυρα Αδριάνειου Υδραγωγείου): The Hadrian’s Aqueduct in Athens was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian, and was completed by his successor, Pius Antoninus in the 2nd century AD, aiming at the water supply of the city of Athens from the rainwaters of Parnitha. The aqueduct started from the foot of Parnitha and crossing a large part of Attica ended at Lycabettus, where the Hadrian’s Reservoir was built. From there the water was channeled by water bridges to the rest of the city. One of these bridges could be seen on Kapodistriou Street at the border between Kalogreza and Nea Ionia. The water bridge formed a two-storey arc and its pillars rested on stone pedestals. In the upper part of the aqueduct, there was a vaulted cover through which the water was transported. For the construction of the aqueduct pillars the system of alternating zones was applied with the use of solid bricks, masonry with raw stones and binding mortar (opus mixtum). Although some efforts have been made for the preservation and promotion of the monument on both sides of the road, it is generally abandoned and some even fear that it might collapse. In the part of the aqueduct (on the right side of the street with direction to Nea Ionia), there are even some arbitrary buildings attached to the pillars. It is a shame that such an important and impressive monument has been left in its fate to vanish.
Agios Georgios Galatsiou – Omorfokklisia (Άγιος Γεώργιος Γαλατσίου – Ομορφοκκλησιά): The church of Agios Georgios (St George), also known as Omorfokklisia / Ομορφοκκλησιά (which means beautiful church) is located on Veikou Avenue in Galatsi, just opposite the main entrance of Veikou Park. The church is built with the materials of an early Christian church and members of an ancient Greek building of the 5th – 4th century BC, which lies next to the church looted. The church of Agios Georgios is said to have been built at the end of the 12th century AD, although some archaeologists place the construction of the Byzantine church at the beginning of the 13th century AD, in order to justify the western elements that appear both in the chapel and in the main church. It is a two-column cruciform inscribed temple, with a chapel on the south side. The church is decorated with frescoes, which constitute an exceptional work of art of the late 13th century, but a big part of them has been destroyed in the lower and easily accessible places. The elegant church became widely known not only in the field of Byzantine scholars but also painters, mainly from the marvellous representation in the dome of the Jesus Pantokrator (Ιησούς Παντοκράτορας), which is preserved in a fairly good condition. Researchers report that Photis Kontoglou (Φώτης Κόντογλου), the famous Greek modern hagiographer and painter, copied in several churches that he painted the form of Pantocrator from the church of Agios Georgios. Unfortunately today the church is closed to the public and can be visited only on the eve and on the day of the feast of St. George every year.
Agios Andreas in Syngrou Park (Άγιος Ανδρέας στο Κτήμα / Άλσος Συγγρού): Syngrou Park has an area of 950 acres. The land belonged to Andreas Syngros, a wealthy Greek businessman and national benefactor. After his death, his wife Ifigenia Syngros lived here for 20 years and donated the park to the Greek Agricultural Company. In the park, right next to the impressive renovated Villa Syngrou, the house of the Syngros family, is the small church of Agios Andreas (St Andrew). The church was abandoned a few years before but now it is restored in full glory. It is the only Orthodox Gothic church in Greece. It was built in 1880 based on the designs of the German architect Ernest Ziller, a student of Theophilos Hansen. Ernest Ziller had come to Athens in 1861 and the city became his permanent residence for the next sixty years. The small chapel follows the type of the basilica, presenting many common elements with the catholic church of Agios Loukas in New Heraklion (see our article about Agios Loukas here) and also some churches in Vienna, which the architect frequently used to visit in order to be informed about the architectural developments and the prevailing trends. However, what is not clear is whether the use of the Gothic rhythm for the small Orthodox church was a wish of Andreas Syngros or a choice of the famous architect.
Kypriadou Neighbourhood (Συνοικία Κυπριάδου): Kypriadou was the first garden-city of Athens and one of its most beautiful neighbourhoods. The establishment of Kypriadou district in 1919 was due to the actions of the agronomist – engineer Epamineondas Kypriadis. The neighbourhood was a model district. Kypriadis paved roads with large sidewalks designed lawns for buildings and arranged the area with large squares, so that everyone looks at least at one. These plans were later used for the design of Psychiko district. Kypriadou was also an area of artists, writers and intellectuals. There was a gathering of workshops of well-known painters, writers and artists, partly representatives of the Generation of the ’30s. Thus, in the interwar years, it gained the reputation of a centre of fine arts, which the painter Giannis Moralis had called “Kypriadis School” (Σχολή Κυπριάδου). In Kypriadou there are five main squares: Papadiamanti, Papalouka, Nikolopoulou, Karkavitsa and the park of Dimitrios Pikionis. Also, the neighbourhood is characterised by beautiful and well-cared private houses. There are fine examples of various periods, mainly from the periods 1927 – 1933 and 1937 – 1948. Finally at Nikolopoulos Square the visitor could see the statue of Eve, a full-length, naked statue of Eve holding the apple with her left hand while the snake crawls at her feet, which has become the symbol of Kypriadou district (see our related article about Eve here). Kypriadou is a wonderful place for a peaceful walk among well preserved houses and green squares (it also has some great choices for dining).
An updated map with all the sights in Athenian suburbs from our articles :