Architectural History for studious beginners: Athens University and temple of Ilissus
The University of Athens. The modern masterpiece that revives the lost ancient one
The University of Athens, by Christian Hansen. One of the finest neoclassical edifices of Athens, built between 1839 and 1864.
Its capitals are considered to be one among the finest of the Ionian style. Not by accident. They are copies of the capitals of a lost ancient masterpiece: the Ionic temple of Artemis Agrotera (Huntress).
The temple was built in 448 BC, perhaps by Callicrates, the architect of the temple of Athena Nike on the Acropolis. It was next to the river Ilissus. The ancients believed that Artemis chased there for the first time when she left Delos, where she was born.
The ancient temple stood transformed into a church of the Virgin Mary until 1778. It was then demolished by the Ottomans to reinforce the walls of Athens.
Fortunately, a few years earlier, it was designed and graphically reconstituted by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, who depicted all the antiquities of Athens. It was included in their famous album ‘The Antiquities of Athens’. That album made the Athenian antiquities for the first time known throughout Europe.
Thus, the lost ancient masterpiece was not completely lost. Its form survives in the modern masterpiece, helping it to become as its creator wanted: worthy of the ancient monuments it had as models.
University. Its capitals are considered to be among the finest of the Ionic style. They are faithful copies of the capitals of the temple of Artemis Agrotera
To see another example of an Athenian building inspired by the ancient temples (Academy of Athens and Erechtheion), click here http://culturehikes.com/en/architectural-history-academy-athens/
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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