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The Venizelos Mansion: The Oldest House in Athens is Also a Museum

benizelos mansion oldest house athens
The Venizelos Mansion, the oldest house in Athens. Credit: C Messier/Wikimedia commons/ CC-BY-SA-4.0

Although the Greek capital of Athens is full of ancient monuments and temples, its oldest standing home, the Venizelos Mansion, dates back to the 16th century.

In addition to its status as a reminder of the daily lives of people living in the city during the days of the Ottoman Empire, the Venizelos Mansion is also a popular museum.

Located in the center of the historic neighborhood of Plaka, on Adrianou Street, the ”Venizelos Mansion,” or the ”House of Saint Philothei,” is the oldest surviving house in the Greek capital.

Venizelos Mansion shows life under Ottoman Empire

Built at the beginning of the 1500s and renovated in the 18th century, the building is a typical two-story mansion characteristic of the period of the Ottoman occupation of Greece, and the museum housed in the historic home highlights daily life in Athens during that same period.

The building has a beautiful “hagiati,” a roofed veranda, as well as magnificent arches on the ground floor, and an interior garden with a well, an impressive fountain, and even a traditional olive press.

High walls surround the interior garden in the middle of the home, which is a feature typical of Ottoman-era houses such as the Venizelos Mansion.

The Venizelos Mansion is not an outlier in terms of architecture from the period. Athens undoubtedly had several houses of this type in the second half of the 17th century since there are paintings from this era depicting several homes similar to this one.

The 16th-century mansion was erected over two earlier stone-built structures which were incorporated into the ground floor of the later building.

Oldest house in Athens was home of St. Philothei

According to records from the time, the historic mansion was the house of Saint Philothei from 1545 to 1589, as it belonged to Angelos Venizelos, the descendant of an aristocratic family and the father of the saint.

According to tradition, St. Philothei became a nun and built a monastery near her house, where the Archdiocese of Athens is today, after her brief marriage and widowhood. St. Philothei is also the subject of exhibits at the museum in the mansion.

The building was taken over by the Greek Ministry of Culture in 1972, and in 1999, it was granted to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Athens.

The structure was then restored and transformed into a museum using funds granted by the European Union. Renovations on the oldest house in Athens started in 2008, and the museum at the Venizelos Mansion opened to the public in 2017.

People can visit the museum to learn about the story of the Venizelos family and Saint Filothei and learn about the lives and traditions of the Athenian aristocracy before the revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

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