Exactly Which is the World's Smallest Cathedral?

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May 27th 1964
Published: December 5th 2018
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1964 Diary Entry

"The next morning I got up and Dad and I went down to have a swim. It was beautiful in and I swam out to the little platform in the middle of the place reserved for our hotel. After I came back we went up to our room for breakfast. After breakfast we started to pack for that day we were leaving for Athens. After we had packed there was still some time left so I had my final swim. After that we took a taxi to the airport. There we had our baggage checked and then we received a stamp for leaving the country. Then we waited for about 1/4 of an hour. After that we boarded the plane and prepared for take-off. After ten minutes we took off. Then about half an hour later we flew over Cyprus. After that we flew over a lot of other islands and finally we saw Athens. Then we landed. Then we walked off the plane and into the airport. There we went through customs and health and passport control. Then we took a coach to the Athenee Palace Hotel. There we were shown to our room. After we had seen our room we walked around the shops and finally we had dinner at the Bazillian (sic) Coffee Bar. After dinner we went back to the hotel and got into bed.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast and then we went to the Olympic Airways Centre where we confirmed our booking for the flight from Athens to Rome. Then we walked up through the gardens till we got to the royal palace. There I took a picture of the guards. Then we walked over to Parliament house and then down to the Tomb of the unknown soldier. After looking at these things we went and had a drink at an outside cafe. Then we did some shopping and then went back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch we went on a tour up the Acropolis which is old Athens. We had a very nice guide called Mike who was interested in archaeology and had a sense of humour also. He showed us around the Acropolis which includes the Parthenon, a huge ancient temple, the temple of {left blank}, the temple of {also left blank} and many other things. After staying at the Acropolis for about an hour and a half we drove down again. At the bottom of the hill we found Hadrian's Arch and the temple of Zeus. After seeing these we drove back to the hotel. That evening we once again had dinner at the Brassilions (sic) Coffee Bar. After dinner we went back to the hotel and got into bed.

The next day we got up and had breakfast for we were going on another tour. At 9 o'clock we got in a bus picked up our other passengers and Mike and then drove on. First of all we went to the National Museum of Archoelogy (sic). There Mike showed us some very ancient statues. These statues were either made out of marble or bronze. After seeing these we moved in and saw a lot of ancient jewellry (sic). After these we hopped in the bus and moved on. We drove for about ten minutes and then we stopped at the biggest cathedral in Athens. We went inside this beautiful cathedral and there Mike told us all about it. Then we went to the cathedral next door. This cathedral was the smallest cathedral in the world. Then we went to the changing of the guard at the royal palace and then we walked down to the stadium. This stadium is like the old greek stadiums except that it's a lot bigger. After this we went over to the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. After seeing these we drove back to the hotel and had lunch. After lunch Dad and I went walking for I wanted to take some special photos. First of all we went to the University where I took two photos. Then we walked all the way to the stadium where I got another picture. Then we walked right to the bottom of the Acropolis where I got another picture. Then we walked all the way back to the hotel. When we got back we went with Mummy to have dinner at a little restaurant just up the street from the hotel. When we'd finished dinner we went back to the hotel and got into bed."

It seems that my enthusiasm for writing diary entries was starting to run out at this stage, and the length of the entries seems to have dwindled from the start of the trip. As a result ever more detective work and reliance on photos, the shoe box in the attic and dim memories was required to work out exactly what we did here. I remember it was Mum who told me that I needed to keep a diary, but I suspect her constant reminders to maintain it might have been starting to wear just a little bit thin by now. She was a great travel diarist, and I've still got her meticulously detailed and very neatly handwritten daily records of her trips to Europe in 1937 and 1953.

Again, I'm pretty sure that neither of my parents had been to Athens before, and had no idea what to expect, so I remember us all being a bit mind-blown at being able to look out the window of the hotel and see the Acropolis with the Parthenon atop it right in front of our eyes in the middle of the city. Athens was generally regarded by all of us as the highlight of the trip. I distinctly remember our guide Mike, who was a mine of information as well as being very funny, and I'm pretty sure that we only took a tour on the second day because Mum liked him so much and somehow found out that he was going to be our guide again. I don't think it mattered to her too much at all where the tour went, as long as he was running it. I even remember getting his autograph, probably at Mum's insistence. (Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting for a minute that Mum had eyes for anyone other than Dad.)

The need to ring or visit the airlines to reconfirm all our flights at least three days in advance was a constant hassle, and all travellers should be extremely grateful that this requirement has thankfully gone the way of the dinosaur. If you don't turn up to your flight these days you just lose your money. I wonder what happened in those days if you didn't bother to reconfirm. Presumably the airline just sold your seat to someone else. This was several decades before the advent of the mobile phone, so presumably there must have been many instances of intending flyers being caught out in the middle of nowhere and unable to reconfirm their reservations, and then turning up at the airport to discover that someone else had taken their place.

Mike was apparently convinced that the Church of St Eleftherios, which is right next to the Metropolis Cathedral, was the world's smallest cathedral, but the Google machine and its good mate the ever reliable Wikipedia aren't quite as sure. It seems that the Church of St Eleftherios, which measures only about eights metres by twelve, may well have been the world's smallest cathedral during Byzantine times. No one is quite sure when it was built because it was cobbled together from marble and other stone materials harvested from a range of pagan temples of different ages, probably sometime between the eighth and fifteenth centuries. The stones were of course all carved with pagan symbols, and as was apparently routine at the time, they were "Christianised" by carving crosses into them next to the pagan symbols. The pagan symbols were then still completely visible, it's just that they now all had crosses carved next to them.

It seems that there is still hot competition amongst the world's cathedrals to lay claim to the title of the smallest. This seems a bit odd. I could understand it if someone was keen to claim say the world's smallest dog, or something else that's not man made, but if you really wanted to build the world's smallest of anything, I'm not sure that that would be too much of a challenge, provided that you didn't want to make it microscopic. It seems that a cathedral is by definition the seat of a bishop, so if you really wanted the title why wouldn't you just go and build something that was just big enough to accommodate a short thin bishop and his chair, provided of course that the Pope was happy enough to sign off on it being deemed a cathedral. I'm not quite sure however that having room for a bishop, but none for his congregation, would be of all that much benefit to anyone's spiritual wellbeing. The Church of St Eleftherios may well have been the world's smallest cathedral at one stage, but it seems to have now slipped off its lofty (??) perch, either due to the subsequent construction of smaller cathedrals or to its bishop having now moved next door to the much larger Metropolis Cathedral. Other claimants to the title seem to have included the 9th century Church of the Holy Cross at Nin in Croatia, but that no longer has a bishop either. Our good friends in Trumplandia of course had an entry, although I would have thought that being the biggest of something might have been a bit more their style; the Prince of Peace Cathedral in Highlandville Missouri claimed the title until it closed in 2010, so presumably its claim has now also lapsed. This seems to leave the Quetta Memorial Cathedral on Thursday Island in the remote Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea as possibly the only valid remaining claimant. Who would have thought - the world's smallest cathedral in humble old Australia.

As seems to have been a bit of a theme on this trip, we don't seem to have been too adventurous with our restaurant choices, and had dinner at what I suspect was an establishment called the Brazilian Coffee Bar on two of the three nights that we were there. This café was apparently an icon in its day. It seems that it closed down in the 1990s and has subsequently been replaced on the site, which was indeed very close to the Athenee Palace Hotel, by the equally iconic Cafe Clemente VIII. The Athenee Palace Hotel seems to no longer exist, but was apparently also an icon in its day. It was built in 1907, and was apparently notable for being the first building in Greece made of reinforced concrete. It was so iconic that its luggage labels are still available for purchase on eBay for the princely sum of USD$7.99. I clearly should have grabbed a pile of these from our room when we were there, and sold them to fund an earlier retirement; well maybe a day or so earlier.


5th December 2018

Superb post and i am big fan of yours.Thanks for with us.
11th December 2018

Many thanks for your kind words.
7th December 2018

What a wonderful plethora of memories. 1964 pics of ancient places. I have posted some of your pics in our 'Cathedrals, grand churches, mosques & places of worship' thread in the Photography Forum. Check 'em out.
11th December 2018

Places of Worship
There are indeed some great shots in there. Many thanks for the tip!

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