When the Parthenon Was a Catholic Church

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The Parthenon stands as a shining example of Greek architectural achievement and design. The Parthenon was originally built in 447 BC in the city of Athens as a temple for the mythological Athena and included some of the finest displays of Greek art and culture. Over millennia, it has been used for many purposes, such as a temple, a gunpowder magazine, and as a mosque. However, most people don’t know that for nearly a thousand years the Parthenon stood as a Catholic Church, the Church of Parthenos Maria.

The Parthenon stood as a temple to Athena for nearly a thousand years, until Theodosius II of the Byzantine empire in the year 435 AD all pagan temples be closed. A short time later, the statue of Athena was stolen by an emperor and taken to Constantinople. For over a hundred years, the Parthenon remained closed until the last years of the sixth century, when it was converted to a Catholic church.

The newly created church was named the Church of the Parthenos Maria (Virgin Mary), or the Church of the Theotokos (Mother of God). The building was reoriented to be used properly as a church. It’s face was oriented to face east, while the main entrance was move to the western side. An altar was constructed along with an iconostasis in the apse where a Greek temple used to be. The building was also redecorated, with Christian icons being painted or engraved into the marble of the columns, while pagan sculptures from the time it was a temple to Athena were removed and either destroyed or relocated. During the Latin occupation it became a Roman Catholic church for over 250 years, and a bell tower and tombs beneath the structure were constructed.

Throughout the thousand years it stood as a Catholic church, the converted Parthenon was one of the most visited pilgrimage sites for Christians. It contained many relics, including bones from Saint Macarius the Great, Saint Helen’s personal copies of the Bible, and a painting of the Virgin Mary by Saint Luke the Evangelist. It is also reported that there was a miraculous lamp that never ran out of oil to burn. Peter IV of Aragon is recorded as saying that the Parthenon was “the most precious jewel that exists in the world, and such that all the kings in Christendom could in vain imitate.”

Today, the Parthenon is in the process of restoration due to its destruction by the Ottomans in 1687 while warring with the Florentine army. While restoration has been ongoing since 1975, it is still far from complete with some estimates saying five years to a decade to complete the restoration.

Comments

11 COMMENTS

  1. I am a former Catholic. The Church puts themselves above God. The Pope needs to keep his ass out of my countrys business. I have no respect for the hyprocrital church or the pope.

    • How exactly do you figure? The church does not put it self above god, how can it if the pope is chosen by god? You must have been a sucky catholic.

    • As a former Catholic, meaning fallen away Catholic, you must remember the word Blasphemy? And how dare.you blaspheme our beloved, Holy Mother church and ourhumble, Holy father Pope Francis! Go online to EWTN.com and talk to the THEOLOGIANS AND APOLOGISTS, they can help guide you back home to our Lord! 😇😇😇

  2. Hey Linda, if you really want to know and understand what the Church is, and not what her enemies from every angle (many inside the Church itself) proclaim about her, can I suggest the following?
    1. Pray to our Lord with a sincere heart, and ask Him to guide you to the truth with His Holy Spirit
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    4. Let this time be primarily between you and the Lord, and disregard the “advice” of those who may not know the Church as she is
    5. Be ready for an exhilarating ride of many surprises and “Ah hah!” moments
    6. Make a promise, both to yourself and the Lord, to go where ever He leads you, no matter what it costs you
    7. Go to YouTube and watch episodes of “Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi. You will hear how others worked through the same questions you have, and the unexpected path that those question took them
    8. Finally, I close with this exhortation from St. Paul to “[h]ave no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
    Peace in Christ!

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  4. Calling it a “Catholic Church” is completely wrong. It was a simply a Christian Church, since it was founded before the schism, and if you want to add a denominational term in it would be “[Eastern] Orthodox Church” since Greece was never a Roman Catholic nation.

    • @Stephan At the time ( 6th and 7th centuries), the concept of Orthodox Church did not exist. They called themselves Catholics and named the Roman Pontiff first in their liturgy.

  5. The Parthenon was converted into an Orthodox Church. Are you trying to say that Hagia Sophia was a papal church? Never! Keep your heresies to yourselves. The Orthodox (Catholic) Church Does not need any of your innovations.

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