Founded in 1914, The Byzantine and Christian Museum is one of the most important national museums in Greece. The objects collected on the premises and organized in collections are more than 30.000 and date from the 3rd up to the 20th century. The permanent exhibition offers visitors the unique occasion to acquire knowledge and appreciate Byzantine and more recent art through a new museological approach. The first part of the permanent exhibition pertains to the transition from the ancient world to Byzantium, and the second part, with the title "From Byzantium to recent times" presents various sides of the historical period from Byzantium up to recent times (15th-20th century) including many objects which are exhibited for the first time. At the gift shop visitors can buy certified copies of objects from Greek national museums, such as icons, mosaics, murals, engravings, sculptures, jewelry and also original creations. Books, posters, stationary and handmade objects are also available with motifs from the permanent collections of the Museum. The cafe-bistro Ilissia in the cool garden is ideal to enjoy a coffee, dessert or a light snack in an attractive and peaceful environment.
History of Byzantine and Christian Museum
The Byzantine and Christian Museum (BCM), which is based in Athens, is one of Greece’s national museums. Its areas of competency are centred on – but not limited to – religious artefacts of the Early Christian, Byzantine, Medieval, post-Byzantine and later periods which it exhibits, but also acquires, receives, preserves, conserves, records, documents, researches, studies, publishes and raises awareness of.
The museum has over 25,000 artefacts in its possession. The artefacts date from between the 3rd and 20th century AD, and their provenance encompasses the entire Greek world, as well as regions in which Hellenism flourished. The size and range of the collections and value of the exhibits makes the Museum a veritable treasury of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art and culture.
The history of the BCM begins before the statute that brought it into being in 1914, and is closely linked to the history of the Christian Archaeological Society (ChAE), which was founded in 1884. George Lambakis, secretary to Queen Olga, a founding member of the ChAE and its first general secretary, was the prime mover both in founding the Society and amassing its collection. From the very start, the founders of the ChAE looked ahead to the establishment of a museum, and the first such institution found a home in 1890 at the Holy Synod in Athens. In 1893, the museum moved to a room in the National Archaeological Museum, where it would remain until 1923.
The Byzantine and Christian Museum eventually came into being in 1914 by dint of Law 401. Run by a Supervisory Board chaired by prince Nikolaos, its first director was Professor Adamantios Adamantiou. By 1923, the core of its collections were in place: The sculpture collection had been formed out of works collected from monuments around Attica and brought to Athens to be stored in the National Archaeological Museum storage facilities and in Theseion, and the artefacts in the Icons, Minor Arts, Manuscripts and Textiles collections had come to the museum by means of purchases and donations, but also as heirlooms placed in its protection by monasteries around Greece and uprooted communities from around the Greek world.
George Sotiriou, commissioner of Byzantine Antiquities since 1915, took over as director of the Museum in 1923, in the wake of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. One of his first acts as director was to incorporate the Christian Archaeological Society collection into the Museum. Sotiriou’s stated aim was to make the Byzantine and Christian Museum “one of Greece’s leading national museums” which would serve as a “model Museum throughout the East”. Sotiriou organized the collections amassed by the Supervisory Committee in the preceding years and exhibited them to the public for the first time in 1924 in five rooms at the Athens Academy.
Soritiou’s prime objective remained the securing of a permanent home fit for a national museum. Finally, in 1930, the Museum moved into the premises that have remained its home to this day: the Villa Ilissia, a complex close to the banks of the Ilissos built by Stamatios Kleanthes for Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchess of Plaisance, in 1848. The buildings’ interiors were converted as required by Aristoteles Zachos. Sotiriou organized the Museum’s new permanent exhibition, which was didactic in thrust, along academic lines. The Museum’s official opening in September 1930 was timed to coincide with the 3rd International Congress of Byzantine Studies, which was held in Athens.
The Museum reopened to the public after World War Two in 1946, when a new exhibition space was built and the conservation workshop reorganized with the help of Marshall Plan funds. The 1950s witnessed the first temporary exhibitions: one of icons painted by Fotis Kontoglou, the other with replicas of mosaics from Ravenna. Maria Sotiriou, Greece’s first female Byzantinist, worked ceaselessly and tirelessly at Sotiriou’s side during this period.
Sotiriou was succeeded as director of the Museum by Manolis Chatzidakis (1960-1975), Paul Lazaridis (1975-1982), Myrtali Acheimastou-Potamianou (1983-1995) and Chrysanthi Baltoyanni (1995-1999), Dimitrios Konstantios (1999-2010), Eugenia Chalkia (2010-2011) all respected Byzantinists who worked to enlarge the collections, update the Museum and make it an institution of international importance.
The most significant change since the Sotiriou period began in the late 1980s when work commenced on extending the Museum with a view to re-exhibiting its collections. The re-exhibition of the Museum’s Early Christian and Byzantine collections was completed in 2004, and its post-Byzantine collections were completed in 2010.
As a result, the Byzantine and Christian Museum of the 21st century is arranged around an entirely updated concept which chimes completely with the dictates of contemporary Museology.
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Byzantine and Christian Museum - Ticket Prices
General Admission: € 8
Concessions are available for:
Participants in international conferences, following the approval of the Director General for Antiquities and Cultural Heritage;
Participants in excursions organized by the OEE;
Parents accompanying primary school children on educational visits;
EU senior citizens over 65 on presentation of their passport or ID card;
People entitled to a renewable three-year “Free Entrance Pass”.
Students of University - Higher Education Institutes, Technological Educational Institutes, Military Schools or equivalent Schools of EU member states, as well as Schools of Guides, upon presentation of their student identity card.
Special Ticket Package: €15 / concessions €8 (valid for 3 days, entrance to the National Archaeological Museum, Byzantine & Christian Museum, Numismatic Museum & Epigraphical Museum)
👉 A separate ticket may apply to temporary exhibitions.
👉 Special ticket packag is unavailable during 1st of November to 31st of March.
Free Entry is available to:
Free Entrance Pass holders;
ICOM-ICOMOS membership card holders;
EU citizens in Higher or Further education on presentation of their student ID;
Young people under 19 on presentation of their ID card;
Schoolchildren under 19 accompanied by a teacher;
‘Friends of’ museums and archaeological sites around Greek on presentation of a validated membership card;
Guides, on presentation of their Hellenic Ministry of Development ID;
People with disabilities and people accompanying blind visitors;
Antiquity and art conservators in possession of a special Ministry of Culture pass;
Employees of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, TAP on presentation of their civil service ID.
Byzantine and Christian Museum - Visiting Hours
Monday - Sunday: 08:00 to 20:00
👉 For security reasons, the last visitors may enter 15 minutes before the Museum closes.
👉 Temporary exhibitions may have different opening hours.
The Museum is closed on the following dates:
- 1st January
- 25th March
- Good Friday (open only between 12.00-17.00)
- 1st May
- 25th-26th December
Byzantine and Christian Museum - Location
22 Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, 106 75 Athens
How to get to the Byzantine and Christian Museum:
The Museum is just a few metres from the Evangelismos Metro station and is a 15-minute walk from Syntagma Square.
- 054, 100, 203, 204, 220, 221, 224, 235, 608, 622, 732, 815, Χ14, Χ95, Α5, Ε14 (get off at ‘Rigillis’)
- 250 (get off at ‘Evangelismos’)
- 450, 550 (get off at ‘Ethniko Idryma Ereunon’)
- 060, 022 (get off at ‘Loukianou’)
- 01 (Municipal of Kaisariani bus, get off at "Rizari")
- 3, 7, 8, 13 (get off at ‘Rigillis’)
- 10 (get off at ‘Ethniko Idryma Ereunon’)
Line 3 (get off at ‘Evangelismos’)
Byzantine and Christian Museum - Contact