The Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is a Greek-Orthodox Church built in the 11th century, around the year 1050, over the ruins of an ancient Greek temple. The building over the ancient Greek temple is not accidental. This was very common for Christian churches being built at that time period. Here the church was built over a Pagan temple that was dedicated to a Greek goddess, probably either Athena or Demeter.
This fact did not help the church to be built any faster. It was completed only in the 13th century about 200 years after construction began.
In an ironic turn of events, this church owes its existence to foreigners who have forbidden the Greeks to destroy it. This happened when King Otto brought a Bavarian architect, Leo von Klenze, to plan a new plan for the city of Athens. The church was then set to be demolished. It was ironically the king of Bavaria, Ludwig I, who opposed the decision and saved the church.
It seems that originally the Kapnikarea Church was a catholicon, the main church of the Orthodox Christian monastery. Mostly, the catholicon is placed in the center of the monastery. According to tradition, it was common to pray here only once a day, and secondary churches or chapels were built in the monasteries, where they prayed the rest of the prayers during the day.
The Kapnikarea was the most southern and large church of the two original buildings. It is shaped like a square cross topped with a dome. It is dated based on morphological criteria, to the second half of the 11th century.
Today, the Kapnikarea is built of 3 sections
a) The original southern church, dedicated to Mary.
b) The Chapel of Saint Barbara on the northern side.
c) The exonarthex, the typical lobby entrance to Byzantine churches, with a propylon, an entrance gate towards the west.