Athens | Halandri | Acropolis

Archaeology, Architecture, Athens, Churches, GREECE & TURKEY

Our first stop on the ISM study tour was the ancient city of Athens, the cradle of Western Civilization.  Greeted by warm sunshine and classical ruins of sparkling white stone, we spent our first two days exploring Athens–first, with a trip to St. George’s Parish in Halandri, the home parish of our visiting professor (and expert guide!) Father Stefanos Alexopoulos.   Yale Schola Cantorum performed a concert at St. George’s, and afterward we were welcomed to a delicious community dinner of traditional Greek food.  Then, early the next morning, we ascended the rocky steps of the Acropolis for a day of  tours.  Exhausted, but with hearts and minds filled with the day’s  sights and sounds, we attended a lecture and concert of Byzantine music given by the Maistores Choir at the University of Athens.


Athens (Αθήνα, Athína, Ancient Greek: Ἀθῆναι, Athēnai), is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the worldʹs oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city‐state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Platoʹs Academy and Aristotleʹs Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent. Today a cosmopolitan metropolis, modern Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by a number of ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, widely considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains a vast variety of Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remaining Ottoman monuments projecting the cityʹs long history across the centuries. Athens is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery. Landmarks of the modern era, dating back to the establishment of Athens as the capital of the independent Greek state in 1833, include the Hellenic Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy consisting of the National Library of Greece, the Athens University and the Academy of Athens. Athens was the host city of the first modern‐day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics. Athens is home to the National Archeological Museum, featuring the worldʹs largest collection of ancient Greek antiquities, as well as the new Acropolis Museum.

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The City of Halandri is a suburb of Athens (considered to be part of the “northern” suburbs) close of Mt. Penteli (known for its marble quarries – the Parthenon is built from Pentelic Marble). The city of Halandri has seen rapid growth the last 40 years and currently has around 120,000 inhabitants (see in Greek).

The Parish of St. George and the chapel of St. George

The parish of St. George was housed in the 17th century chapel of Saint George which functioned as the cathedral of the city, until the erection of the cathedral church of Saint Nicholaos. The foundations of the present church building were laid in 1964, reflecting the growth of Halandri and the parish. The basement of the new church served as the house of worship for the parish

of St. George from 1967 to 1999. The main church was consecrated in the spring of 1999 by the late Archbishop Christodoulos.

The Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas Cathedral is located in the central square of Halandri. Its foundations were laid in the 1850s on the site of the old cemetery of Halandri. The iconography of the church took about 100 years to complete, providing us an opportunity to see different styles of iconography within the same church. The church is well‐ maintained, a great example of preserving a historical building but also bringing it up‐to‐date.


The Acropolis of Athens or Citadel of Athens is the best known acropolis (Gr. akros, akron, edge, extremity + polis, city, pl. acropoleis) in the world. Although there are many other acropoleis in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis without qualification. The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on 26 March 2007. The Acropolis is a flat‐topped rock that rises 150 m (490 ft) above sea level in the city of Athens, with a surface area of about 3 hectares. The Acropolis bears the scars of Mycenaean, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman eras. The Acropolis complex, as has been excavated today, reflects the classical era.

Most of the major temples were rebuilt under the leadership of Pericles during the Golden Age of Athens (460–430 BC). Phidias, a great Athenian sculptor, and Ictinus and Callicrates, two famous architects, were responsible for the reconstruction. During the 5th century BC, the Acropolis gained its final shape.

Important buildings within the complex of the Acropolis are the Parthenon, the Propylaia, and the Erechtheion.