Byzantine and Christian Museum
Between the glorious monuments of ancient Greece
and the zeitgeist of the contemporary art scene, Athens’ Byzantine treasures are often overlooked. Medieval chapels are peppered throughout the city (especially among the pedestrian alleys and souvenir shops of Plaka), many with masterful frescoes and icons intact. For an awe-inspiring overview of Byzantium, a deeply influential period of Greek civilization that spanned almost eight centuries, visit this meditative museum devoted to art from the early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval era. With more than 30,000 artifacts, ranging from altarpieces to icons, textiles, manuscripts, murals, and mosaics, the museum’s collection is almost entirely concerned with religious expression. But the diversity of the techniques and approaches is mind-boggling and the artistic thread running from classical antiquity to modern art is palpable. The architecture is interesting, too. Built in 1848 in the style of a Florentine palace, today Villa Ilisia’s cloistered grounds are more redolent of a Greek Orthodox monastery. The gardens offer a cool respite from the urban hustle, with fountains and benches beneath the fruit trees. It’s located on the city’s unofficial Museum Mile, Vassilisis Sofias Avenue (also home to the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture, the Museum of Cycladic Art, and the War Museum).