This tour covers the intricate, glorious and diverse historical era called in greek ‘Byzantine era’, named after the capital of the eastern roman empire, Byzantium or Constantinopolis (Istambul today).
The Byzantine era dated from the 3rd century AD until the 15th century AD and coincides with Western Europe’s Medieval era. This was no ‘Dark Age’ for Eastern Europe! It was the time when a new religion, Christianity, took over our side of the world, changing everything.
We start our tour with the visit to the Byzantine and Christian museum, housed in one of the most elegant Athenian mansions of the 19th century, opposite the British embassy. The gardens of the museum are next to the Lyceum (school) of Aristotle, the inspiring philosopher and most curious mind of antiquity. He was highly thought of by the Byzantine scholars and this is why his school is included in our visit.
The museum exhibits artifacts that focus on Christian history. The early centuries and the effort to utterly tranform religion, society, cult and the relationship between the emperors and their subjects is the theme of the first rooms. The extinction of paganism and the new codes and forms of art (icons, symbols, architecture) become clear to us as we walk through the museum. The museum also houses one of the most complete collections of Christian icons in the world. My favourites belong to the late Byzantine era and to the school of the island of Crete. Their dramatic character and vivid colours always take my breath away.
We continue with a walk to the city centre (about 10 minutes away) to visit a number of medieval churches. The church of Kapnikarea on Ermou street, the church of the Virgin Mary (who quickly listens to your prayers!!) next to the modern cathedral and the church of Saint Nickolaos Ragavas in Plaka. This is our chance to study the Byzantine architecture of the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries AD and to clarify the orthodox doctrine and its impact on local and global history.