A walk through the Old City of Athens reveals a handful of Byzantine-era churches. Agios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris (Saint Demetrius the Bombardier) is likely the most secluded and serene of them all. The church, which is located in a wooded area at the base of Philopappos Hill, originally dates to the ninth century. Ancient ruins from the area were used in the construction of this small, vaulted, single-aisle basilica, including columns located in the courtyard of the church entrance and a column that supports the altar.
The origin of the nickname “Bombardier” comes from an incident in 1658. On the eve of the celebration of St. Dimitrios Day, the Ottoman commander of the Acropolis set up cannons from the Propylaea with the intent of firing on the church and its congregation the following day. The plan was thwarted when lightning struck the powder storage that night, destroying the cannons and killing the commander, his family, and several Ottoman soldiers.
The church has had several minor renovations since the Byzantine era. A major project was undertaken from 1955 to 1957 that included the construction of pedestrian paths around the Acropolis. Reclaimed marble and ceramics were also added to the exterior of the church at this time and additional work was performed on the outer courtyard and gardens through the early 1960s. It was during this renovation that interior wall paintings were removed and rare frescoes with inscriptions dating to 1732 were discovered.
The church has operated uninterrupted since, with minor renovations to the exterior areas and paths being performed prior to the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Know Before You Go
The church is open most days from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and holds liturgy each Sunday. The church celebrates St. Dimitrios name day annually on October 26. Dress codes vary from church to church in Greek Orthodoxy. If you wish to enter the church, a proper show of respect to the church and its members is achieved by modest clothing and proper behavior. For men shorts, tank tops/sleeveless shirts and sandals/flip flops are frowned upon. Women's shoulders should not be shown in church, so anything strapless or with thin straps should be avoided. Skirts and dresses should at a minimum come below the knee. Some churches ask that no leg be shown. Feet should be kept on the ground when seated as it is considered insulting for the bottoms of feet to face holy images.