Ekatontapyliani: The Church of a Hundred Doors
The Ekatontapyliani, also known as the Church of a Hundred Doors, stands as a beacon of Byzantine architecture and Christian heritage on the island of Paros, Greece.
This remarkable structure, dating back to the 4th century, has a rich history intertwined with legends and religious significance. According to tradition, the church's origins are linked to Saint Helen, the mother of Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great. During her quest to find the Holy Cross in 326 AD, a storm diverted her ship to Paros. She vowed to build a church there if she succeeded in her quest. Although she found the Cross, she passed away before fulfilling her vow, leaving her son Constantine to construct the original church in the 4th century. It was later extensively rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, giving it the form we see today.
Ekatontapyliani, which means 'the church with 100 gates', is a name coined by 17th-century scholars, drawing a parallel with the ancient hundred gates of Thebes in Egypt. Its real name, Katapolyani, reflects its location towards the ancient city. The church complex includes a main chapel, two additional chapels, and a unique 4th-century baptistry with a cruciform baptismal basin, one of the oldest and best-preserved of its kind.
The church's architecture and art are as impressive as its history. The nave is adorned with two six-winged seraphim beneath the central dome and divided from the sanctuary by an iconostasis featuring intricately carved 6th-century marble columns. The sanctuary houses the unique solid marble 6th-century Syborium and a throne flanked by rows of seats. The 17th-century pulpit and icons of the four evangelists add to the church's grandeur, along with the large icon of Paros’s Saint Theoktisti.
Ekatontapyliani is not just an architectural marvel but a living testament to the enduring spirit of Christianity. It's a pilgrimage destination revered worldwide, embodying both the physical and spiritual essence of Paros. Its blend of historical layers, from ancient temples to Byzantine art, makes it one of the most venerable and best-preserved early Christian churches globally.
Students and faculty of the IUPUI Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering produced this documentary during their Study Abroad Trip to Paros, Greece in 2022.