Tzistarakis Mosque, Athens

Tzistarakis Mosque, Athens

Athens endured centuries of Ottoman rule, but very few structures have endured, as archaeologists have predominantly focused on uncovering older artifacts beneath the ground. Perched prominently in the Monastiraki square, this mosque, the largest surviving structure of its kind, is impossible to overlook. Constructed in 1759 under the supervision of the Turkish civil governor of Athens at the time, Tzistarakis, the mosque features one large central dome and two smaller ones, offering a striking departure from the traditional Greek architecture prevalent in the area. While it no longer functions as a mosque, the building now houses an exhibition.

Climbing the steps to enter, visitors can explore a collection of ceramics, sculptures, and decorative arts from the Kyriazopoulos family's private collection. Although relatively small in size, the exhibition contains rare and intriguing pieces from various regions of Greece, including selected works by artists affiliated with the Center for the Study of Traditional Pottery. All in all, it's a worthwhile stop, providing a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of Monastiraki's surroundings.

As an interesting historical aside, the limestone used to construct the mosque was sourced from one of the pillars of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, in violation of a decree issued by the Turkish Sultan. Local superstition of the time held that the destruction of temples could bring about epidemics, so when the locals learned about the origin of the mosque's building materials, they were incensed. To appease them, the Sultan banished Tzistarakis from Athens, but this wasn't enough, as Tzistarakis was later assassinated.

The mosque served as a place of worship until the onset of the Greek War of Independence, after which it was repurposed as a meeting hall for elders. Following Greece's independence from the Ottomans, the Greek government took control of the building and used it in various ways, including as a prison, barracks, warehouse, and venue for military concerts and events.

Sometime between 1839 and 1843, the building's minaret was demolished.

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Tzistarakis Mosque on Map

Sight Name: Tzistarakis Mosque
Sight Location: Athens, Greece (See walking tours in Athens)
Sight Type: Religious
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Athens, Greece

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