Byzantine and Christian Museum

Byzantine and Christian Museum

Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens

Nestled in the heart of Athens, the Byzantine and Christian Museum stands as one of the most captivating national museums in Greece. Established in 1914, this museum is dedicated to the collection, study, preservation, and exhibition of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine cultural heritage within the Hellenic territory. Housing an impressive collection of approximately 30,000 works of art, the museum showcases icons, sculptures, ceramics, ecclesiastical textiles, paintings, jewelry, and architectural elements, including wall paintings and mosaics.

A Journey Through History

The museum’s permanent exhibition is thoughtfully divided into two main sections:

The Byzantine Era (4th – 15th century AD)

The first section invites visitors to journey back in time to the Byzantine period, exploring artifacts that chronicle the gradual transition from the ancient world to the Byzantine Empire. This transformation began in the second century when the political, economic, and religious structures of the ancient world started to dissolve. Christianity was on the rise, and the first examples of Christian art began to emerge.

A pivotal moment in this transition was the legalization of Christianity in 313 AD by Emperor Constantine the Great, which allowed Christian art to gain a public character and further the spread of the new faith. The transfer of the Roman Empire’s capital from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD marked a significant shift from the Latin West to the Hellenized East. The division into a western and eastern empire in 395 AD, followed by the fall of the western half in 476 AD, were crucial stages leading to the end of antiquity.

Visitors will gain insights into these historical shifts and the eventual decline of great urban centers after the sixth century, illustrated through a rich array of artifacts and exhibits.

From Byzantium to the Modern Era (15th – 20th century)

The second section, “From Byzantium to the Modern Era,” features artworks dating from the 15th to the 20th century. This segment highlights the gradual loss of Byzantine territory, which began in the 11th century and culminated in 1453. These changes led to a complex social and political landscape in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The exhibition showcases how populations within the Byzantine Empire, both Greek and otherwise, experienced these transitions. In Venetian-held areas, the coexistence with Westerners fostered new social and cultural structures, blending Byzantine tradition with the burgeoning European Renaissance. This cultural fusion is evident in the urban centers of Crete, the Cyclades, the Ionian Islands, and the Peloponnese.

Villa Ilissia: A Historical Gem

Since 1926, the Byzantine and Christian Museum has been housed in the beautiful Villa Ilissia. Completed in 1848, the villa is one of the most charming buildings erected in Athens during its early years as the capital of the newly-founded Greek state. Originally the home of Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchess of Plaisance, the villa later became property of the Greek state and served various military functions before becoming a museum.

The Villa Ilissia complex includes the central building, which blends elements of Classicism and Romanticism, along with two lateral wings for ancillary uses and a gatehouse at the entrance. Visitors can admire the architectural beauty of this historic building while exploring the museum’s collections.

The Gardens: A Peaceful Oasis

The museum’s gardens offer a serene escape in the bustling city. Visitors can relax under fruit trees, surrounded by aromatic herbs and fountains, and take in themed exhibitions of historical and archaeological interest. The garden exhibits include:

  • The Well-Cistern: Exploring how Athens has been supplied with water from ancient times to the present.
  • Paradise: Delving into the Byzantine concept of paradise in life and the afterlife.
  • The River Ilissos: Charting the development of the fluvial landscape on the banks of the Ilissos River from antiquity to modern times.


After exploring the museum, visitors can unwind at the café-bistro located in the garden, near the Palace of the Duchess of Plaisance. This peaceful spot offers coffee, desserts, and light meals. The café-bistro can also accommodate special events with prior arrangement through the bistro management and the Museum’s Communication Office.

Plan Your Visit

The Byzantine and Christian Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the rich cultural heritage of Greece. For more information on visiting hours, admission fees, and special events, please visit the official website of the Byzantine and Christian Museum.

Embark on a journey through history and experience the profound legacy of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine art and culture at this remarkable museum in Athens.

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