The Agia Dynami Church in Athens: A Closer Look

This tiny BYZANTINE-ERA* Greek Orthodox Church honours the Virgin Mary and serves as a shrine for pregnant women to go pray for safe delivery and for the birth of strong and healthy children. I wasn’t sure what the church was at first despite the cross on its roof because it’s so small it looks like a tiny room. I later saw that it was a church. During my stay at the Electra Metropolis Hotel I spotted the church, the hotel was built around the church. It stands out since all the buildings around it are modern and the church looked very different.

Why is the Agai Dynami Church surrounded by modern buildings?

I later learned that among all the Byzantine churches still standing in Athens, this charming little sanctuary has the curious distinction of being the only one surrounded on all sides by a modern building. The Agia Dynami (Holy Power) church was built in the 16th century. Following the victory in the Greek War of Independence in the 1830s, the buildings around the church were demolished so the street could be widened to serve the growing needs of the city. Many of the streets in Athens are actually rather narrow due to them being ancient streets. In the 1950s, the area was again redeveloped and the Greek government attempted to obtain the land the church sat on to build the new headquarters for the Ministry of Education and Religion. The ownership of the property was contested by the Greek Orthodox Church, and as a result, the decision was made to construct a modern municipal building around it. As a result, the tiny church is almost entirely encased within the newer building, which was later converted into the Electra Metropolis Hotel in 2016.

Ancient temple origin and myths

The presence of inscriptions on the grounds indicates that the church was built on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to the demigod Heracles, who was renowned for his exceptional strength and his completion of the “12 Labors” at the request of the king of Tiryns. The church is one of the oldest churches in Athens. And beneath it is an underground tunnel measuring 15 meters which connects it to an extensive system of caves that some believe extend to the Acropolis and the Kaisariani Monastery on the north side of Mount Hymettus. In 1963, a steeple was built over the tunnel entrance, effectively preventing future access.

There’s a myriad of myths surrounding these tunnels. One of them claims that priests use the tunnels to hide important paintings, documents, and other religious artifacts during the Ottomon occupation of Greece.

Another legend states that during the War of Independence, Greek experts in munitions had to manufacture bullets for the Turks in the church. However, some say that they were successful in producing large quantities of bullets for the Greek revolutionaries, smuggling them out through the tunnel system beneath the church.

Renovations and what to wear to the Agai Dynami Church

The church was renovated in 1912 and again in the 1950s, and it’s typically open daily. The church’s most significant celebration takes place yearly on September 9, which is said to be the birth date of the Virgin Mary. I will say though that during my short stay I didn’t see anyone visiting the church. It’s always important to respect people and religious spaces so if you visit any Greek Orthodox church please dress appropriately. Dress modestly. Shorts, sleeveless shirts/tank tops, and sandals/flip flops are discouraged for men, while women should avoid anything strapless or with thin straps that reveal their shoulders. Skirts and dresses should be below the knee as a minimum requirement, and some Greek Orthodox churches may request that no leg be shown.

Where is the Agai Dynami Church located?

The church is located between two concrete pillars at the ground floor of the Electra Metropolis Hotel. The Hotel is 10 stories high and ultramodern. It is also a 5-star hotel. This makes the church truly stand out from its surroundings.

Address: Mitropoleos 17, Athens 105 57.

Credit: Electra Metropolis Hotel

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Thank you so much for reading. Have you been to a tiny church similar to this one let me know in the comments. I love to hear from my readers, feel free to comment or send me a message.