Kapnikarea Church stands out as a major landmark in Athens’ Byzantine past. Dating from the 11th century, the church lies in the middle of Ermou Street and is dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary.
The church was built atop an older, Christian temple, commissioned in the fifth century AC by the Byzantine empress Eudokia, wife of Theodosius the Younger. Constructed on foundations of the ancient temple of Athena or, perhaps, Demeter, Kapnikarea Church is today owned by the University of Athens.
The church’s three sections were built at separate times. In the early 20th century the chapel of St. Barbara was added to the northern section. Many of the interior murals were painted by famed artist Fotis Kondoglou.
The church was originally named Kamouharea, after the famous silk cloth workshops (kamouhades) that operated in the area. The temple was then renamed for its first owner who, according to tradition, collected the tobacco tax (kapnikos foros) in the city.