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The last bastion of Byzantine Athens in Plaka

The Byzantine mansion of the aristocratic Palaiologou-Benizelou family, the oldest in Athens, was once home to the city's patron saint. Aghia Filothei (1522-1589) whose actual name was Revoula or Rygoula, was a force to be reckoned with who valiantly dedicated herself to those in need during the ottoman occupation.

The home (the original parts of which date back to the 16th-17th centuries with additions made in the late 1700s plus recent renovations) is today a museum, where visitors can admire the two-storey building with its elegant marble-arched courtyard, the remains of a Roman wall, a wine press and olive press at the back and a fountain at the front.

Visitors can also watch a short documentary about St Filothei, although her story was a lot more dramatic and eventful than the film reveals. Married off to a much older man at the age of 14, the young Ravoula suffered years of abuse from her husband before he dropped dead while smoking a hookah at a men's coffee shop. In 1551, she chose God over her prestigious suitors and received the name Filothei (Friend of God). She made it her mission - despite the many life-threatening risks involved - to turn her home into what she described as a "Parthenon" for the needy; a shelter for both Christian and Muslim women, destined for the harem, whom she rescued and educated in crafts.

She also set up secret religious schools and hospices for the elderly, orphaned and poor.

Near her home in Plaka she created a monastery (today the Archidiocese of Athens) that catered to the sick and destitute.

Inevitably her actions made her a top target for the Turks. They arrested and tortured her in October 1588 at the church of Aghios Andreas, strapping her to a column and leaving her for dead. Her sister nuns found her and took her home, where she died from her wounds four months later.

Address: Adrianou 96, Plaka, Athens, 10556

Getting there: Metro to Monastiraki

Hours: Tue & Thu 10am-1pm - Sun 11am-4pm

Tip: Next door to the mansion you will find The Loom, a store stacked full of magnificently hand woven rugs, materials, cushions, covers and bed linen in traditional and artful styles.

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