As you stroll up Panepistimiou St, towards famous Syntagma Square, you encounter three of the most elegant and imposing neoclassical buildings in the Greek Capital that are collectively known as the Athenian Trilogy.
Made up of the University of Athens, the Athens Academy and the National Library, each was designed in the mid-19th century by the Danish Hansen brothers and completed years later with the help of benefactors and donors.
University of Athens
The central building in the Athenian Trilogy is the University of Athens, which was built in 1839 from the designs of famous Danish architect Christian Hansen. Completed in 1864, the building benefited from many other fine architects, including Kaftantzoglou and Theophil Hansen (brother of Christian). Many Greeks throughout the diaspora also contributed to the significant undertaking. When you visit you’ll notice a mural on the front, depicting King Otto alongside classical personifications of the arts and sciences; the murals were designed by the Bavarian Rahl and painted by Polish artist Lebientzki after Rahl’s death.
A: 30 Panepistimiou St, Athens
To the left of the University of Athens is the National Library (also known as Vallianeio Mansion) this is the easternmost of the three-building complex known as the Athenian Trilogy. Construction began in 1888 according to designs by Theophil Hansen and it was finished under the supervision of German architect Ernst Ziller. Built with white Pentelic marble and adorned with Grecian Doric columns, the building also boasts a stunning, Renaissance-style semi-circular twin staircase. The facade is decorated with statues of the Vallianos family, who helped finance the building along with other Greek businessmen. Note: the original books and manuscripts from the library are now housed in the current National Library, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.
A: 32 Panepistimiou St, Athens
To the right of the University of Athens is the Academy of Athens, where you will find Greece’s highest research establishment; designed by Theophil Hansen, who was very much inspired by the Acropolis. It was finished in 1885 by Hansen’s student, Ernst Ziller. The structure is covered in white Pentelic marble and parts of the facade are adorned with ancient stone. Statues (created by Leonidas Drosis, Greek neoclassical sculptor of the 19th century) of Athena, goddess of literature, and Apollo, god of the arts sit on Ionic columns on either side of the entrance, and impressive sculptures of Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates are also found below.
A: 28 Panepistimiou St, Athens
About the architects
Christian Hansen was a Historicist Danish architect who worked in Greece for 18 years and was active in the transformation of Athens becoming the country’s capital and an international metropolis.
Brother of Christian, Theophil Hansen was a Danish architect who became particularly well known for his buildings and structures in Athens and Vienna and is considered an outstanding representative of Neoclassicism and Historicism.
A German-born university teacher and architect who later became a Greek national. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ernst Ziller was a major designer of royal and municipal buildings in Athens, Patras, and other Greek cities.