The Oldest House in Athens is Now Open to the Public

Benizelos family mansion, Adrianou street
Benizelos family mansion, Adrianou street | © Dimitris Kamaras
Ethel Dilouambaka

Located in Plaka, in the historic centre of the Greek capital, you will find the oldest house in the city. The Benizelos Mansion, which is also known as the House of Agia Filothei, is indeed the oldest house in Athens. Last February 2017, the house, turned museum, opened its doors to the public for the first time in years.

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Located at 96 Adrianou Street, in the heart of Plaka, and surrounded by souvenir stores and fur boutiques, the Benizelos Mansion was built in the 18th century, although it features remnants of structures erected in the 16th century and is one of the only surviving examples of a mansion of that period in southern Greece. Left abandoned for years in the 19th century, it recently underwent extensive renovations and was turned into a museum. Dating back to the Ottoman period, the two-story house has a spacious courtyard with a well, a roofed veranda on the first floor, as well as arches on the ground floor, all typical features of Ottoman architecture. The mansion belonged to an illustrious Athenian family, the Benizelos.

Courtesy of the Benizelos Mansion

Recounting the life of a typical aristocratic family before the end of the Ottoman Empire, the museum focuses on Agia Filothei, or Paraskevi, also known as Revoula, who lived in the mansion in the 16th century. The daughter of the Benizelos family, she was married for a brief time as a young girl and took up the monastic life after her husband died. A strong devout, she even built the monastery of Agios Andreas, which served as a refuge for young women who were taught weaving, handy work and cooking, preparing them for domestic life.

Agia Filothei is mostly remembered for her philanthropic actions, including building hospices and schools, as well as buying the freedom of Greeks enslaved by the Ottomans, mostly women taken into harems. She died from being severely beaten by Turks and is now revered as a martyr.

Courtesy of Benizelos Mansion

In the museum, visitors can explore the different rooms and floors and learn about an interesting period of Greek modern history, which is unknown to many, with signs written in Greek, English and even Braille. Entrance is free but make sure to plan your visit wisely as the museum’s opening hours are quite limited (Tuesday-Thursday, from 10 AM-1 PM; Sunday from 11 AM-4 PM).

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