A small church in the middle of Ermou Street

Right in the middle of Ermou Street, the main shopping street in Athens is the 1000 year-old Church of the Kapnikarea.

P7141183.JPGP7141180.JPGP7141181.JPGMosaic above the entrance to the Church of Kapnikarea.

We can tell from the architecture and artwork that this is an Orthodox church not a Catholic or Protestant church. It is short and square. The building has the four equal branches of the Greek Orthodox cross (like a plus-sign) while the cross that you’ll find in Catholic and Protestant churches has one branch that is longer than the other three.

The arches above the windows are another clue that this is an Orthodox church. Not until we began to use pointed arches, which are stronger than rounded arches seen on this church, could people build much taller structures and grander windows with wonderful stained glass.

The Orthodox Church is one of the three main branches of Christianity. The other two branches are the Catholic and Protestant Church. The Orthodox Church began to split with Catholicism in the 5th century CE, and this split became official in the 11th century CE in what is known as the “great schism.” When the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, the Eastern half became the Byzantine Empire, where the Orthodox Church thrived. While the Roman Catholic Church adopted many new traditions over the centuries, the Orthodox Church did not change much.

It is easy to tell the difference between an Orthodox Church and a Roman Catholic Church by just looking at them. Orthodox churches are smaller, have four equal branches, mosaics (like the ones we saw in Ravenna, Italy). Things that you won’s see in Orthodox churches that are common in Catholic churches are chairs or pews and statues. According to Orthodox tradition, mosaic images of Jesus Christ, the apostles and saints are ok, but making statues of any of these figures comes too close to idol worship, so they don’t allow statues.

Orthodox, by the way, means “right belief.”



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