Patras (Modern Greek: Πάτρα, Classical Greek: Πάτραι (pl.), Latin: Patrae (pl.)) is Greece's third largest city and the regional capital of Western Greece, in the northern Peloponnese, 215 km west of Athens. The city is built at the foothills of Mount Panachaikon, overlooking the Gulf of Patras. Patras has a population of 213,984 (in 2011). According to the results of 2011 census, the population of the metropolitan area has a population of 260,308 and extends over an area of 738.87 km2.
The core settlement has a history spanning four millennia; in the Roman period it had become a cosmopolitan centre of the eastern Mediterranean whilst, according to Christian tradition, it was also the place of Saint Andrew's martyrdom. St Andrew's Cathedral (Agios Andreas, Άγιος Ανδρέας in Greek) is a Greek Orthodox basilica in the east side of the city. Along with the nearby old church of St. Andrew, it constitutes a place of pilgrimage for Christians from all over the world. Construction of the Greek Byzantine-style church began in 1908 under the supervision of the architect Anastasios Metaxas, followed by Georgios Nomikos. It was inaugurated 66 years later, in 1974. It covers approximately 1,800 square meters. It is the largest church in Greece and the third-largest Byzantine-style church in the Balkans, after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. Over the central dome there is a 5-meter-long, gold-plated cross and over the other domes there are 12 smaller crosses. These crosses symbolise Jesus and His apostles. The interior of the church is decorated with Byzantine-style wall paintings and mosaics (see photos here).
Dubbed as Greece's Gate to the West, Patras is a commercial hub, while its busy port is a nodal point for trade and communication with Italy and the rest of Western Europe. The city has two public universities and one Technological Institute, hosting a large student population and rendering Patras a major scientific centre with a field of excellence in technological education.
The Rio-Antirio bridge connects Patras' easternmost suburb of Rio to the town of Antirrio, connecting the Peloponnese peninsula with mainland Greece. Every year, in February, the city hosts one of Europe's largest and most colourful carnivals: notable features of the Patras Carnival include its mammoth satirical floats and extravagant balls and parades, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors in a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Patras is also famous for supporting an indigenous cultural scene active mainly in the performing arts and modern urban literature. It was European Capital of Culture in 2006.
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