Good Friday and the night of Holy Saturday are one of the most important and beautiful moments of Greek Orthodox Easter, especially at midnight when the priest chants “Christos Anesti” (Christ has risen) and the holy light is passed through the crowd, from lambada to lambada candle. Although there are some magnificent Easter destinations around the country, and a lot of Athenians return to their villages or native towns to celebrate this major holiday with family, the capital itself can offer excellent Easter experiences. Here we select five of the most beautiful churches in Athens where you can celebrate the liturgy of Good Friday and Anastasi on Holy Saturday.
Agios Georgios on Lycabettus hill, Lycabettus
Anastasi with a stunning view of the capital at the top of Lycabettus Ηill is definitely a memorable experience. Standing right at the top of the hill, whitewashed Agios Georgios gleams in the candlelight at midnight. The walk or drive down is awesome as you can see the fireworks going off around the city and the Acropolis swathed in golden light.
Agios Dyionissios Areopagitis on Skoufa 34, Kolonaki
In the heart of Kolonaki, this church, built in 1925, is by far the most cosmopolitan place to celebrate the Anastasi in Athens. It is the favourite choice for many of the cities most prestigious personalities, from entrepreneurs and politicians to actors. The church was decorated by famous Greek artists (such as Spiros Vassileiou) and icon-painters. This is a great so to head to dinner after mass as there are so many good restaurants nearby.
Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris in Filoppapou
Surrounded by trees and greenery and standing on sacred ancient grounds, near the Pnyx Hill and Hill of the Nymphs at the foot of verdant Filopappou Hill, this 16th Century church is certainly unique. In its interior, admire a fresco of Agios Dimitrios, made in 1732 and depicting him riding his horse. The church’s yard, where the Anastasi takes place, was designed by architect Dimitris Pikionis in 1955. Legend has it that during the Ottoman occupation, Turkish Army Officer Yusuf ordered for the church to be bombed by a cannon launched from the Acropolis, but that just moments before the cannon was launched, lightning struck and a thunderstorm broke out, causing an explosion at the Ottoman barracks and saving the church. From here you can walk down to Thisseio or up to Makriyianni for dinner.
Agia Sofia on Dyionissiou Aeropagitou 45, Makriyianni
Literally a stone’s throw from the foot of the Acropolis, this church was built in 1926 on a sacred ancient place where classical mosaics, a statue of the goddess Athena and other finds were unearthed. The Anastasi liturgy is particularly magical and tranquil here – under the dimly-lit Parthenon, on the quiet pedestrian Dyionissiou Aeropagitou street, without a single firecracker in earshot.
Panagia Kapnikarea, on 55 Ermou St, Monastiraki
The Byzantine “sunken” church of Panagia Kapnikarea graces the middle of pedestrian Ermou street, between Syntagma and Monastiraki. This 11th Century church is one of the oldest in Athens, and apart from its singular ambiance and beautiful wall paintings by iconographer Fotis Kondoglou, is one of the loveliest places to experience the Anastasi, as it is literally in the heart of the city. There are endless choices for places to visit nearby after the midnight service.