Athens Sights

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Monastiraki Square

Monastiraki Square Review

One of Athens's most popular meeting places, the square has recently been renovated and much of it now glitters thanks to a pavement of golden mosaic pieces. Look for the special glassed-in view revealing the ancient Iridanos river-bed. The square takes its name from the small Panayia Pantanassa Church, commonly called Monastiraki ("Little Monastery"). Recently renovated, the square itself is now covered with shiny golden mosaic pieces apart from a glassed-in view revealing the ancient Iridanos riverbed. It once flourished as an extensive convent, perhaps dating to the 10th century, which stretched from Athinas to Aiolou. The nuns took in poor people, who earned their keep weaving the thick textiles known as abas. The buildings were destroyed during excavations and the train (and later metro) line construction that started in 1896. The convent's basic basilica form, now recessed a few steps below street level, was altered through a poor restoration in 1911, when the bell tower was added.

Tzistarakis Mosque. The square's focal point, the 18th-century Tzistarakis Mosque, is now one of the four branches of the Greek Folk Art Museum. It now houses a beautifully designed ceramics collection, with the exhibits handsomely lighted and labeled. The mosque's creator Tzistarakis, a then newly appointed Turkish civil governor, knocked down a column from the Temple of Olympian Zeus to make lime for the mosque. Punished by the sultan for his audacity, he was also blamed by Athenians for an ensuing plague; it was believed the toppling of a column released epidemics and disasters from below Earth. The ticket here ensures entry to all four branches of the Greek Folk Art Museum. Areos 1, 10555. 210/324–2066. www.melt.gr. €2. Wed.–Mon. 9–2:30. Monastiraki.

Updated: 05-17-2011

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