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Byzantine Monuments in Thessaloniki Town

There is no other city –apart from Constantinople- in the eastern Mediterranean so rich in Christian monuments as Thessaloniki. The city of Saint Dimitrios is full of monuments that began being built during the 4th century and from there and on each era left its own mark in the passage of time. Up to the years of the Ottomanic domination there are buildings and monuments which have outstanding architectural form, sculptures for decoration and very rich and of fine quality murals as well as mosaic work. Apart from the cultural and financial development, Thessaloniki was the second biggest city in the entire Byzantine era and center of Christianity in the eastern world and the Balkans, partially because of the artistic value of the monuments. From this city, artists transferred the knowledge, the technique and the innovative forms to every territory of the Empire. Rotonda, or else Saint George, is one of the most important monuments in the city. It was the south section of the palace that Galerius Ceasar built round 300 AC. This circular-shaped and of impressive size monument was connected to the main palace through a huge hallway, the Galerius Arch. Up to today the archeologists haven’t agreed on the purpose this building was supposed to serve. Some say that it was meant to be Galerius’ final resting place, but it’s known that he died and was buried away from Thessaloniki. Others say that it was a temple dedicated to Kavirus, or even to Zeus. The point of view which is most possible is the one that says that it was used for formal ceremonies and meetings with ambassadors. In 379- 375 when great Theodosios was on the throne of the Empire, Rotonda became a Christian temple, yet un-known dedicated to whom. Much later it was renamed to Saint George, taking the name after the small temple standing on the west side across the gate. It seems almost untrue and is of the peculiar facts in the course of hi-story that such a gigantic building took its name from a small temple which stands in the shadows. During the ages of the Ottomanic domination (1590) Rotonda became a Muslim temple. In 1912, after the liberation it became a Christian temple again and since 1920 it is used as a museum and that hosts Christian sculptures and cultural events. From the period of the early Christian ages the sculpture that represents the three Magicians bringing their gifts to baby Christ is saved and is nowadays kept at the Constantinople Museum. The outstanding mosaic work combines the early Christian ages character and the post Roman technique in a world that the visible and the invisible co- exist. The colors are vivid. The building is 29,8 meters high, the diameter is 24,5 meters an the walls are 6,3 meters thick. It was made of stone.

Saint Dimitrios is one of the oldest and the most important churches of the Christian world that is still in use. It was built at the exact point that Saint Dimitrios martyred and was buried in 303 AC. At the first decades of the 4th century the temple was a small building on the grave of the Saint. At the beginning of the 5th century, Leondios built a great temple which was destroyed by fire in 630 AC. The citizens along with Bishop Ioannis rebuilt the temple. From 1453 to 1912 it was turned into a Muslim temple. In 1917 a big fire broke that destroyed the entire city and the temple as well. The reconstruction lasted long and the temple opened for the public again in 1948. The crypt under the church hides the place that Saint Dimitrios martyred. There is a tank that springs holy water that had healing powers, while in the sarcophagus the archeologists discovered a glass- vessel which had the blood of Saint Dimitrios in solid form. The mosaic work that decorates the temple is of different eras. During ther fire in 1917 most of them were destroyed. Eleven of them, dated from the 5th century to the 9th are saved on the east side of the temple. Parts of murals are saved as well.
Agia Sofia is the oldest Metropolitan church in Thessaloniki and was constructed according to the architecture of Agia Sofia in Constantinople. The temple was built during the 7th century on the remains on an early Christian temple of the 5th century, enormous in size. The architectural form was an innovation in the history of churches and was rebuilt and reformed several times from the byzantine ages to nowadays. Few sculptures from the 5th and 6th century are saved and the mosaic work is of great interest. The murals stand out for the free style the artists used. In 1204 the temple was turned by the Franks into a Cathedral and during the Ottomanic domination into a Muslim temple. Other important temples of the Byzantine and the post- Byzantine ages are the Aheropiitos (5th century), Saint Menas (5th century), Panagia Halkeon (1028), Agios Panteleimon (1295), Agioi Apostoli (1310). Worth to be mentioned are the parts of fortification the archeologists recovered in the sea and the inscriptions on the walls, as well as several monuments that come to light every time a new building is about to be built.
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