The Faceless Apostles of Athens

There is a measure of time in Greece that contextualizes the challenges which the country has had to face over the millennia. The cadence is longer, economic crisis come and go. If you head to the The Church of the Holy Apostles, also known as Holy Apostles of Solaki  located in the  Ancient Agora of Athens, you will find the faceless apostles or a set of 17th century paintings that have survived largely intact, accept where the turkish occupiers removed of ‘defaced’ the apostles. 

The Church can be dated to around the late 10th century. The church is particularly significant as the only monument in the Agora, other than the Temple of Hephaestus, to survive intact since its foundation, and for its architecture: it was the first significant church of the middle Byzantine period in Athens, and marks the beginning of the so-called “Athenian type”, successfully combining the simple four-pier with the cross in square  forms. The church was built partly over a 2nd century nymphaion, and was restored to its original form between 1954 and 1957. From evidence of various repairs and reconstructions, four distinct building phases can be distinguished. The original floor-plan is a cross with apses on four sides and a narthex  on the west side, with four columns supporting a  dome. The alter and floor were originally of marble. Tiles on the outer walls have Kufic like decorative patterns.

For me the highlight is the majestic and beautiful paintings. The Apostles are robed in simple terra-cotta tunics and head gear, surrounded by a celestial orb of yellow pigment. The paintings are set on a dark grey black ground that really accentuates the graphic nature of the simple two dimensional figures. They have a tranquillity of presence that is testament to the cycle of time in Greece, you know that they will be there long after the EU or its next incarnation.