Almost all modern churches in Greece are built with the Agia Sofia church in Instanbul as an example. This means that the cupola in the middle of the church is the centre of a cross with equal legs, so with four sides. This church is used as an example because the Ecumenical patriarch still settles there. This patriarch is the head of the Greek Orthodox Church.
All these churches have an icon wall, the so called ‘holy temple’. Civilians are never allowed to get behind this wall; this rule especially applies for women. The only exception is a nun that maybe has to help the priest with something. Every icon wall has a bow in the middle which is called ‘the gateway to heaven’. Only the priest is allowed to walk through here. Anybody else has to go through the side doors. Be sure you pay attention to this when visiting a church.
The paintings in the churches know a certain general and common classification. When the church has a cupola it usually has a painting of Christ as the ‘Pantokrator’; ‘he that rules everything’. Beneath Christ you usually find the four evangelists and the apostles. Further down you will see the other saints. The most important apses know the image of Maria with baby Jesus. The walls of the church can be decorated with saints and scenes of the life of Christ. These paintings were made when the lime stone was still wet or fresh, therefore they are called frescos.
On the wall with icons you will find a few icons that are present in every church. When you stand in front of the wall you see on the right side of the gateway to heaven the icon of Jesus Christ and next to it the icon of John the Baptist. On the left side of the gateway you will always find an icon of Maria and next to this the icon of the saint the church is named after. Furthermore, generally the life of Jesus is represented but you must have quite some knowledge about icons to recognize and decrypt this.
Usually the church is dedicated to more than one saint. At the sides you will see smaller gateways, where these saints are showed in icons. Statues are not allowed in a Greek-Orthodox church. For some time (725 to 843) even icons and wall paintings of saints were prohibited.