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Tzistarakis Mosque and Kyriazopoulos Museum of Ceramics

Tzistarakis Mosque and Kyriazopoulos Museum of Ceramics (24)

A vestige of the city's Ottoman past, this mosque was restored a few years ago after being hit by an earthquake in 1981. Its history, however, is also tainted by the destruction of other monuments, including the 17th pillar of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. 

However, before we go into that, let's go back the beginning of the history of the mosque, which currently houses the Kyriazopoulos Museum of Ceramics. Its origins date back to 1759, when the Turk Tzistaráki was appointed civil governor of the city of Athens, a position with absolute power over the forces of law and order. The governor, also called the voivode, was responsible for collecting his own taxes, safeguarding the Sultan's treasures and maintaining his harem. 

However, his absolute power did not protect him when he dared to ignore the Ottoman law that prohibited the destruction or demolition of old buildings. Tzistaráki sent his workers to blow up one of the pillars of the highly prized Temple of Olympian Zeus in order to build this mosque. In fact, he blew it into a thousand pieces, until it was reduced to tiny fragments, because he wanted lime to plaster the interior the mosque. 

This breach of the law overshadowed his position of power, so he was accused of vandalism and forced into exile. 

Also known as the Mosque of the Lower Fountain, since there was one within the enclosure, and the Mosque of Monastiraki, since it stands on Monastiraki Square, it was used for other uses such as a barracks, a prison and a storehouse after Greek independence. Although it retains the dome, the symbol of its identity, the minaret was destroyed.

Apart from its architectural interest, it attracts many visitors because since 1974 it has housed the ceramic collection that Professor Kyriazopoulos donated to the Museum of Folk Art. This museum had been housed in the mosque since 1918, when it was known by another name, but over the years and as the collection grew, it had to be moved to another building. The Tzistarakis Mosque then became a sort of annex that exhibited a wide range of contemporary maiolica ceramic pieces.

Around the mihrab, terracotta jugs from Aígina, clay dishes from Sifnos and pots from Thessaly and Chios are displayed. All are objects that are still used in Greek homes today. However, in the windows of this mosque/museum you woll find decorative pieces such as plates illustrated with motifs from mythology. 

Visiting Tzistarakis will certainly leave an impression on you, whether because of its interest as a mosque or the fact that it is home to one of the most interesting ceramic collections in the city. And now that you know the price paid by the Temple of Olympian Zeus to plaster the mosque, be sure to admire it!

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