Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens

Athens, Greece | C.1842

Photo Credit: Guillermo Torrijos

On Christmas Day in 1842, Greece’s King Otto and Queen Amalia gave Athens a gift. They laid the first cornerstone of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens and thus commenced its construction. Popularly known as the Mētrópolis, the Cathedral is a significant landmark in the Greek Orthodox Church and remains the largest church in Athens.

Led by three prominent architects, the Cathedral was conceived and created over the course of 20 years. Builders used marble from 72 demolished churches to build the Cathedral’s walls – further signifying that the Mētrópolis was created for and of Athens. The immense architectural triumph was completed with a magnificent domed basilica.

Contained within the Cathedrals’ walls are the tombs of two highly revered saints of the Greek Orthodox Church. Inside lay the bones of Saint Philothei, martyred in 1589 after she valiantly released Greek women who were enslaved in the harems of the Ottoman Empire. So too lies Gregory V the Ethnomartyr, who was hanged in 1821 and thrown into the Bosphorus after the Greek uprising (which later led to the Greek War of Independence). His body was rescued by Greek sailors and later enshrined.

Today, the Cathedral remains a centerpiece of Athens and the Greek Orthodox faith, where coronations, weddings, and funerals are regularly held. Seems the King and Queen’s cornerstone that Christmas Day not only answered the call of their clergy, but also built a foundation for their people.

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