Eleni Marneri Galerie Late Antiquity Urban Villa – Athens, Greece - Atlas Obscura
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Athens, Greece

Eleni Marneri Galerie Late Antiquity Urban Villa

The ruins of an ancient mansion sits in front of and underneath a contemporary art gallery. 

You’ll find much more than modern art at this gallery. Look down, and you’ll see remnants of the distant past hiding in plain sight just below ground.

The Makrygianni area of Athens sits on the south slope of the Acropolis. Examinations of artifacts from the area determined it was populated as early as 3500 BC, and the city endured several raids and periods of destruction in the centuries to come. In the middle of the second century AD, the city began flourishing and the neighborhood became an area for the privileged, who built large houses, most with colonnaded courtyards, mosaic floors, and private baths. It was later destroyed again, but the the residents rebuilt it and added even larger houses. 

Makrygianni thrived until the 12th century. The neighborhood was pretty much abandoned by the beginning of the 13th century and was not repopulated until modern times.

Various construction projects over the centuries have revealed ruins and artifacts in the area. One of these in the 1960s revealed a large mansion that extended underneath a building’s foundation. Further excavations revealed a portion of the geometric and floral polychrome mosaic flooring in front of the building.

Due to strict Greek laws protecting archaeological sites and artifacts, the renovation plans were modified to both protect the mosaic flooring outside the building and the ruins underneath it. The new plans called for the outside area to have a protective perimeter placed around it and glass flooring above it so it can be admired from the sidewalk. The interior ruins were protected and were put on display through the use of lighting and glass flooring.

Know Before You Go

The mansions mosaic floor is on display in front of the gallery 24/7. The ruins inside can be viewed when the store is open. Current store hours are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The gallery may be closed at times for private events. The staff are friendly, welcoming, and deserving of respect.   

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