Little Metropolis

Athens, Greece

Little Metropolis


The Little Metropolis (Greek: Μικρή Μητρόπολη), formally the Church of St. Eleutherios (Άγιος Ελευθέριος) or Panagia Gorgoepikoos (Παναγία Γοργοεπίκοος, "Panagia Who Grants Requests Quickly"), is a Byzantine church located at the Mitropoleos square, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (the "Great Metropolis").

The church is built on top of the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Eileithyia. Various dates for its construction have been proposed in the past, from the 9th century under Empress Irene of Athens to the 13th century. Until recently, the common view among scholars, especially in Greece, ascribed it to the tenure of Michael Choniates as Metropolitan of Athens, at the turn of the 13th century. However, the Little Metropolis differs considerably from other Byzantine churches of the same period in Athens, and indeed elsewhere; although it follows the typical cross-in-square style, it is, uniquely, almost entirely built of reused spolia from earlier buildings, ranging from Classical Antiquity to the 12th or even 13th centuries, thus precluding an earlier date of construction. The historian Bente Kiilerich further pointed out that during his visit to Athens in 1436, the antiquarian Cyriacus of Ancona mentions one of the inscriptions from the spolia of the church as lying in the Ancient Agora of Athens, i.e., far from its present location. This suggests that the church was built after 1436. Kiilerich suggested an early Ottoman-era date for the church, perhaps connected with the takeover of the city's old cathedral—the Theotokos Atheniotissa in the Parthenon—by the Turks and its conversion into a mosque.

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