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Even though you probably have walked down Mitropoleos street in Syntagma if you have visited Athens before, there’s a good chance you didn’t even notice the tiny Agia Dynami Church nestled under a modern building. Hidden in plain sight, the church of Agia Dynami (also known as the Holy Church of Hagia Dynamis) is an attraction that is easy to miss but definitely worth a few minutes of your time while you’re in Syntagma.
Read on to find out about the history of the tiny chapel and what makes it so special, how you can get there, and a few ideas on where to go next.
The history of Agia Dynami Church
Built on top of the ruins of what used to be an ancient altar dedicated to Hercules, Agia Dynami church is one of the oldest Christian churches in Athens. The single-aisled vaulted basilica was built sometime during the 16th century, during the first period of the Ottoman occupation, to serve as a parish of the Penteli Monastery.
Initially, the church was dedicated to pregnant women, with its name referring to the Virgin Mary, who would protect Athenians and help them give birth to strong and healthy children.
What most people don’t know is that Agia Dynami church sits on top of a broad underground cave, the entrance to a massive subterranean tunnel network that runs across the city.
Some say that these tunnels connect the tiny chapel to Acropolis Hill, while others claim that the tunnels reach all the way to Kaisariani Monastery on top of Mount Hymettus.
This underground cave system has ignited the imagination of thousands and has been the source of myriad tales and urban legends.
For example, it is believed that local priests used the cave under the church as a hiding place for archives, documents, paintings, and other ecclesiastical artifacts and treasures during the times of the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
According to another tale, during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, local ammunition experts were coerced to manufacture bullets for the Turkish army in Agia Dynami church.
Legend has it that they were able to use the underground tunnel system to smuggle a large part of the ammunition on account of the Greek resistance forces. Some even say that the name of Agia Dynami church (literally translating to “holy power”) is an implied affirmation of this act.
After the war ended, several of the buildings surrounding Agia Dynami were demolished in order to widen one of the main streets of the expanding city center of Athens, and the tiny church came close to being destroyed once and for all.
Later on, in the 1950s, local authorities unveiled a plan to build the new Greek Ministry of Education headquarters exactly where the tiny church stood.
However, Orthodox Church officials refused to concede the legendary chapel and denied every proposition. Eventually, the two sides reached a mutual agreement. The solution was to construct a modern building on top of the church, which would completely confine the church between two pillars.
In 2016, the building was transformed to house one of the most luxurious hotels in Athens, the Electra Metropolis Hotel.
And yet, the tiny chapel remained tucked away under the building where it still stands today, preserving most of its former glory and narrating fascinating stories about Athens that would otherwise have been forever lost in time.
Where is Agia Dynami Church Located?
The location of Agia Dynami Church is one of the reasons why this small chapel has become a very famous attraction in Athens among travelers. The tiny church is tucked underneath the first floor of Electra Metropolis Hotel, and it looks like it was squeezed between two cement pillars.
This contrast between the old picturesque chapel and the modern building that houses the luxurious 5-star hotel is truly a sight to behold.
The exact address of Agia Dynami Church is Mitropoleos 17, Athens 105 57.
Know before you go: Agia Dynami church is normally open daily, but there’s no actual schedule or opening times, since it’s not a “traditional” tourist attraction. The official celebration of the temple takes place on September 9, the day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
How to get to Agia Dynami Church in Syntagma
The easiest way to get to Agia Dynami Church is via the Syntagma metro station (blue and red lines). Once you get off at the station, climb up the escalator towards the Syntagma Square exit.
Walk down the square (in the opposite direction of the Parliament building), cross the street, and you’ll arrive at the start of Ermou street. The first parallel street on your left is Mitropoleos street. Walk down Mitropoleos for a few blocks, and you’ll find Agia Dynami church on the left side of the road.
Things to do near Agia Dynami Church
There are plenty of things to do after visiting the Agia Dynami church since you are already in the heart of the Syntagma district. If you are fascinated by entering the old church and want to see more, keep walking down Mitropoleos street to discover the imposing Athens Metropolis and the Little Metropolis Church.
Alternatively, keep roaming around Syntagma to explore the popular shopping hub of Ermou or grab a bite at one of the well-known restaurants on Voulis street. If you haven’t already, head back towards Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the Evzones guards and catch your breath by relaxing under the shade at the National Garden of Athens.
Local tip: Did you know that, apart from being one of the top luxurious hotels near Acropolis, the Electra Metropolis Hotel also features one of the most exquisite rooftop restaurants with a view of the Parthenon in Athens? If you’re looking for a unique dining experience after you visit Agia Dynami church, the place to be is right above your head.
The church of Agia Dynami is, without a doubt, one of the most unique sights you can come across in Athens.
Even though it’s a tiny chapel, it does wonders in showcasing the turbulent history of Athens as a remnant of an age long gone. While in Syntagma, make sure to take a few minutes to explore the small church that has become an iconic landmark of the city.
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