Athens To Delphi

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High Mass at St. Nicodemus

On a Saturday evening walking back from Syntagma Square we were drawn by a carillon to a small Russian Orthodox church where a sung High Mass was about to begin 

                              St. Nicodemus


We stood with a congregation of six women for an hour, enchanted by the singing and the opulent surroundings.  The Priest constantly circled the church singing in his spine tingling basso profondo voice and showering us with clouds of incense

Beside the church but under restoration stands the bell tower, a gift of Tsar Alexander 11 to the Russian Orthodox community

In the middle of busy Ermou surrounded in May by jacaranda blossom is one of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in Athens, the tiny 11th century Byzantine church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, dedicated to the Presentation of Mary to the Temple.  Slated for demolition in 1834, happily it remains here in it's original location.

    In Spring the streets of Athens turn Purple



Southern facade of the Byzantine church of Panaghia Kapnikarea

Mosaic of Madonna and Child  - South portico


One Legend has it that the God Zeus wanting to identify the centre of the world released two eagles, one from the East the other from the West.  At the spot where their paths crossed he threw the Sacred Stone it landed in the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia,  it thus became the 'navel of the world'.  There has been worship on this site since 4000 years BC

The Tholos {circular) Temple

Standing in a stunning location on a terrace on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, half a mile from the sanctuary of the God Apollo.   The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia  (Athena before the Temple of Apollo) is dedicated to the   Goddess of wisdom.  Although its use is now unsure, it is the most photographed view on the site.  These columns were reconstructed in 1938

 Originally there were 20 outer Doric columns and 10 Corinthian pilasters within, all supporting  a frieze with triglyphs and metopes and an ornately adorned eight arched dome roof

The legend continues to tell of the Delphic Oracle Pythia, protected by her child the serpent Python, moving to the city  The young Apollo slew Python and his mother became Apollo's intermediary, her prophecies deemed to be the word of God, the God Apollo

  Roman Agora - Opus Mixtum Wall

 Entrance to The Sacred Way where pilgrims made animal sacrifices and offerings, some quite lavish, before continuing on to the Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo

Photo Credit:  Bernard Gagnon  (]

Between the 6th & 4th centuries BC, the Pythia a succession of priestesses of the Temple, reigned supreme. On the 7th day after a new moon 9 months of the year,  in a trance induced by natural gas escaping from the rock beneath the temple, she would answer questions from petitioners.  As her speech was incomprehensible it was interpreted by priests.  Being consulted by all manner of people on all matters including when to go to war, she became very powerful

The Theatre of the Pythian Games

The Sacred Way also leads to the 5000 seat theatre above the Temple of Apollo.  This incarnation built in 160 BC. was the home of the musical contests of the games and other festivals.  The Eisteddfod of the ancient world.  It consists of a horse-shoe orchestra pit and 34 tiers of seats arranged on two levels reached by a series of stairs

Pythian Games

Above the theatre is the Stadium, home to the Pythian Games, started  in 582 BC,second in importance only to the Olympic Games.  Despite the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Delphi remained a pagan site, the opening ceremony here included ritual animal sacrifice.  The Games continued every 4 years between Olympic Games until around 424 BC

The sporting events followed eight days of music, dance poetry, drama and consisted of various track sports, wrestling, boxing something called the prankration, hand to hand fighting,  combining judo, boxing, kick boxing, all- in  , no holds barred wrestling and the pentathlon.  Equestrian and chariot races took place on the last day at a hippodrome near the sea

No monetary prizes were awarded the victors originally receiving a three legged stool like the one the Oracle used to make her predictions and later by a sacred bay laurel wreath

The Stadium

From Start                                                              

To Finish

Spring Flowers in the Stadium               

Head of Antinous.  Delphi Museum . Favourite of Hadrian 11 and renowned for his beauty.   He met a sad end but not before his beauty was captured for posterity

                     View From On High


More photos of Delphi were in my camera the next day when it went missing from a bus en route to Meteora.   We abandoned the trip, spent a day and night in Galaxidi  and returned to Athens the evening before the big strike.  Next morning we walked to the Canon Head Office in Athens where the good people not only identified the equivalent of my model camera and lenses but phoned a discount camera shop within walking distance who had them in stock, on sale and, like Canon, defying the call to strike

 Our flight to Santorini was as scheduled but there was apparently no way to get to the airport.  The brothers at the Adams Hotel  had told us a strike would absolutely not affect us, came to the rescue and phoned their friend George who styled himself "The most famous Taxi Drive in Athens"  He promised to send a driver.  We booked him for for a 6am departure to leave time in case he didn't show up.  At the airport we were told our 1st (?) class tickets entitled us to use the newly opened Aristotle Onassis lounge.  Music to our tired ears,  they served us food and beverages and there were comfortable chairs to sleep in.  I had planned on not telling Tony I had replaced the camera etc. until I got home but I checked my email  at the airport, VISA had called home to ask if anyone in Athens had bought camera equipment, on a hunch he told them yes.   Cameras are replaceable, the images of Delphi were not

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