The Academy, University and National Library

The Academy, University and National Library (46)

You may have come to Athens with the preconceived idea of finding a city with an immense artistic legacy based solely on the archaeological remains of its Golden Age Classic during former glory years. But the truth is that there is much more. We are not talking about the Byzantine chapels and churches that suddenly appear in the capital, or some of the mosques that are the legacy of Turkish rule. None of that. It is one of the architectural styles that has grown the city: the Neoclassical. And the question of how to prevent the civilisation that was the birthplace of classicism from going back to its origins centuries later?

this architectural style forged and cultivated strongly during the 19th century, especially with the establishment of the Modern Greek State, which consolidated as the capital Athens. Suddenly, the traditional city was ennobled with tree-lined avenues and large walkways on which residences and neoclassical mansions were constructed at a dizzying pace. Large colonnades, sculptures and marble decorations were ultimately the great achievements of ancient Greece created by the architects of the time such as Ernst Ziller and the Hansen brothers, Christian and Theophil. 

In this context, there are many buildings with which the city provides beautiful Neoclassical portraits, but if you want to know the greatest success, do not miss the Athens Science and Art Academy, the University and the National Library. If you really feel that after climbing hills, visiting museums and walking among the ruins on the Acropolis, three buildings are too much for your legs, you will love the fact that all three are located on the Venizelou Avenue. 

Just up from Syntagma Square to Omonia Square, the Athens Academy is the first of the three buildings of the renowned Neoclassical Trilogy. A main nave, with an impressive Ionic colonnade and two wings are connected by a corridor. The Classicism that the building recovered, constructed between 1859 and 1885, is closer to Roman than Greek architecture. Even so, its façade has sculptures of the gods Apollo and Athena, as well as renowned philosophers Socrates and Plato. In the lobby inside there are frescoes depicting scenes from the myth of Prometheus.

If Teophil Hansen was the architect of the Academy, his brother Christian was responsible for raising the University of Athens. This centre of learning, in which cultivating intellect was the predominant activity, sports a frieze made precisely to flaunt it. It depicts, King Otto, with whom the Modern Greek State experienced its revival of the sciences and the arts, is surrounded by muses. Also note the Sphinx; a symbol of wisdom. Perhaps less impressive than that of its neighbour, the Academy of Athens, the Ionic colonnade is an element that should not be missed in this Neoclassical building.

Finally, the National Library is the  third treasure of Venizelou Avenue. A splendid building, also designed by Danish architect Teophil Hansen in 1887. Made from Pentelic marble, look for the Doric colonnade at the entrance, at the end of a monumental staircase. An elegant reading room surrounded by Ionic was once home to more than half a million books, ancient manuscripts and first editions.

Do not miss this valuable opportunity to move among the classical monumentality exhibited here. You are at the essence of antiquity, not only in the shapes but also in the interior. The cultivation of philosophy, science and the arts are kept alive in these true temples of knowledge.

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