Byzantine Art, The Athens Small Metropolis from the S.E. (Agios Eleftherios or Panagia Gorgoepikoos)

Department Archive
Collection BSA SPHS Image Collection
Reference No. BSA SPHS 01/0287.1517
Level Item
Description Glass negative, approximately full plate size, a copy negative.
Dimensions 19 x 12.5 cm
Place Panagia Gorgoepikoos
Dates Latest 1897
Donor/Creator Leaf, Mr Walter
Scope and Content The original description in the SPHS register reads: "Athens: (Byzantine art) The Metropolis. From S.E.".
Notes Unknown date, but based on numerous images donated by Walter Leaf that were catalogued SPHS 1502 to 1608 that appeared in the 1897 slide catalogue in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, it probably dates no later than 1897.
Further information Panagia Gorgoepikoos, which is also known as the Little Metropolis or Hagios Eleutherios, is an impressive tetrastyle cross-in-square church built of marble remarkable for the rich ornament of its exterior. Regular cloisonné masonry has partly been used only for the dome which is of the most perfect Athenian type. The lower part of the walls, up to the lever of the windows, displays high quality solid marble stone masonry. In contrast, ninety ancient Greek, Roman, early Christian and Byzantine reliefs, occasionally developed into continuous friezes, enliven the upper part of the marble walls of the building.

Crosses have been added to ‘christianize’ pagan sculpture. Ninth and tenth-century marble closure slabs have been incorporated into the friezes. In the absence of ornamental brickwork the church is difficult to date with precision. Manolis Chatzidakis associated its erection with Michael Choniates (1180-1204) the literate Athenian archbishop with the strong antiquarian interests.

The church rests on a slightly protruding crepidoma. Hence, it could be dated to the late 12th c. The original fresco decoration of the building, which was reproduced by Durand in a series of 19th c. drawings, is now lost. It has recently been suggested that Gorgoepikoos is not a Byzantine church (see: B. Kiilerick, ‘Making Sense of the Spolia in the Little Metropolis in Athens’, in Arte Medievale (2005:2), Associazione «Arte Medievale», Roma, p.95-114.).