Church of the Savior of Lykodemos (Athens, Greece)
The Church of the Savior (Sotira) of Lykodemos, also Sotira Lykodimou, is the largest medieval period building in Athens, Greece, dating from the eleventh century. Currently, the Church of the Savior serves as the parish church of the Russian community in Athens.
Construction of the Church of the Savior began in the years before 1031 as noted on two inscriptions on the church, one of 1031 and the other 1044. The church was built in the Byzantine style of the time, within the defensive walls of the city of Athens, The church was built on the site of an earlier Christian basilica that had been built over an earlier Roman bath. The initial archaeological exploration of the bath was supervised by the first Russian priest at the Church of the Savior, Archimandrite Antonin Kapustin, who later founded the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem.
The church served as the katholikon of a monastery during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. It suffered damage from natural disasters and wars, particularly during the siege in 1687 by Francesco Morosini, later Doge of Venice. The church was further damaged by an earthquake in 1701.
In 1780, only the church remained after Ali Hakseki demolished the other monastery buildings when he rebuilt the defensive wall. The Church of the Savior then became the parish church of the Monastery of Kaissariani. Again in 1827, the Church of the Savior was damaged from shelling soon after the Greek War of Independence.
In 1847, the badly damaged church was purchased by Tsar Alexander II and the government of Russia to be used as the parish church of the Russian community of Athens. By 1850, the building had been restored, including the addition of a bell tower and a remodeled interior. The earlier mural paintings were replaced by paintings by the German artist Ludwig Thiersch and the low styled marble altar screen was replaced by a tall Russian iconostasis, giving the church a nineteenth century Russian look compared to its former Byzantine style.
Following the Byzantine style of the day, the masonry structure of the church uses a cloisonne style look on the exterior in which the patterns alternate with the use of bricks and stones. The church is built in the form of a domed octagon with narrow three sided apses.
During the restoration of the church in the nineteenth century the Byzantine interior was restyled in the fashion of nineteenth century Russian church interiors. The remains of some of the original mural paintings of Christ, St. Stephen, and St. John the Forerunner are evident on the southern wall. Kufic pattern elements, imitating old Arabic writing, are embedded as small ceramic plates in a frieze across the northern and eastern walls.