Erechtheion (Erechtheum)


The holiest of all Athenian temples disposes of a northern as well as of a southern entry. It was built long after the construction of the Propylaea and the parthenon, between 421 and 406 b.C. Like in the case of Athena Nikeís sanctuary, the uneven ground required a construction on two levels. The tripartite construction consists of the Temple of Athena Polias, occupying nearly half of the whole construction. Beside the northern hall it is especially the Porch of Maidens with the Caryatides that make the Erechtheum one of the Acropolis' most famous buildings. West of the Erechtheum, a small open district borders on the Temple of Athena Polias: the Pandroseion. Once there was to be found an olive tree and several small sanctuaries.

Erechtheion Erechtheion Erechtheion

As we know, necessity is the mother of invention, and we clearly can see this reflected in the masterly aesthetics of composition that is second to none in the Ancient world. But just like in case of the Propylaea, the final execution did not correspond to the original plans. Not only the extern appearance changed due to restaurations and rebuildings. Also, the Erechtheionís functions changed: the Ancient cult place became a Christian church, seat of government of Frankish dukes, and even a Turkish harem. What remained was reconstructed from 1902 to 1902 in the form that we see today.

Erechtheion Erechtheion Erechtheion

Long before the Erechtheion had taken its name, it was the temple where there was the old cult image of Athena. A hint for this is an inscription from th year 409 b.C. In the place where once might have stood the glorius palace of Erechtonios, the Erechteionís architecture typifies the different cults in honor of the gods. Traditional knowledge and oral traditions tell about the holy places, the cults of Erechtheus, Poseidon and Athena Polias. It was here that the sanctuary of Kekropsí daughter Pandrosos was to be found; it was here where that gushed the sea godís salty source; it was here that the castleís snake dwelled inside a chasm, and also here that rooted the olive tree that Athena once had given as a gift to Athens.

Karyatides, Porch of Maidens

On the southern side of the construction which is of Attic-Ionic style, the entablature is carried by artificial stone replicas of the karyatides: a larger-than-life representation of graceful slave girls from Karyai, whose task consisted in guarding the sanctuary. Five of the originals can be found in the Acropolis Museum. Another original remains in the possession of the British Museum.

Koroi Karyatides Karyatides Erechtheion

Naos and Northern Hall

The eastern part of the building is called Naos, which means temple. Here we find the main hall, the cella and the pronaos, a porch. Here we find five columns, which are about six metres high. Missing baseplates in the hall in front of the northern side symbolize Poseidonís trident. From the northern hall, a door richly decorated with ornaments leads into the interior. Even though it has been subject to reparature works, it still remains a unique artwork. Pearls and beaten gold converted the Ereichtheion into a jewel that beat everything known up to then with its blaze of colours.

Restauration works took place from 1903 to 1909, led by Balanos; and later, from 1979 to 1986, led by the architect Alexandros Papanikalaos and the engineer Konstantinos Zambas. It was then that the Karyatides were replaced by replicas. New marble replaced missing pieces. The frescoes above the relief ornaments and the entablature are part of the sculptural decoration. Until today it has not been possible to locate the original places of these marble representations. Also, their interpretation still is mysterious.

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