Crossing the always bustling Evripidou Street, it is difficult to notice the small church of Agios Ioannis (Saint John) the Baptist and even more difficult, behind the tall trees of its courtyard, to notice the ancient column projecting through its roof. But Agios Ioannis of the Column is one of the most interesting hidden attractions in the center of Athens. The church was built in the 6th century AD, and its sanctuary was formed around an ancient Corinthian column. According to archaeologists, the column belonged to a sanctuary of Asclepius (the ancient god of medicine) that existed at the site, along with a monument dedicated to the Athenian physician Toxaris. He was considered a healer of fever and helped the Athenians during the plague of 430 BC.
In the Christian religion, Agios Ioannis, like Asclepius, had healing abilities. It is clear that the belief in Asclepius’ healing powers persisted in Agios Ioannis. According to the testimonies of travelers of the 19th century, when the Athenians were sick with malaria and high fever, they would tie white and red ribbons to the column, which, if untied, meant that the saint would cure them. Today the church is open to the public, and on the day of the saint’s feast (August 29), it is filled with believers, mainly elderly residents of the city center. Its small, green courtyard is a small oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of the city and the perfect place for a quick, relaxing break.