Monuments of Thessaloniki (World Heritage)

By | August 12, 2021

Thessaloniki was the second most important city in the Byzantine Empire after Constantinople and played an important role in the Christianization of the Slavs. This era still shapes the cityscape with its numerous churches, such as the church of St. Demetrios, built in the 5th century, and the three-aisled Hagia Sophia.

Monuments of Thessaloniki: facts

Official title: Early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
Cultural monument: Early Christian and Byzantine monuments such as the five-aisled church of Ágios Dimítrios, the patron saint of the city, the former church of the coppersmith Panagía Chalkéon, the Rotênda, originally an imperial mausoleum and at the end of the 4th century converted into a church, the Church of Agía Sophía, the Ágios Nikêlaos Orphanês church (14th century) with marble iconostasis on the eastern city wall, Ágios Panteleimonos church, main church of the monastery of Theotokos Perivléptos
Continent: Europe
Country: Greece
Location: Thessaloniki
Appointment: 1988
Meaning: an important center of early Christian and Byzantine culture

Monuments of Thessaloniki: History

at 305 Construction of the Rotênda
904 Saracen onslaught on Thessaloniki, 22,000 residents are abducted into slavery
1028 Construction of the Panagía Chalkéon
1185 Conquered by the troops of the Norman King of Sicily
1205 Beginning of the rule of the crusader Boniface of Montferrat
1310-20 Painting in the Ágios Nikêlaos Orphanês church
1430 Conquest by the Turks
1568-71 Conversion of the Ágios Panteleimonos church into a mosque
1821 Suppression of an uprising against the Turks
October 26, 1912 Transfer of the city to Greece
1917 City fire
1959/60 Restoration of the Ágios Nikêlaos Orphanês church
1978 earthquake
1997 Thessaloniki “European Capital of Culture”

The Byzantine princess of the Mediterranean

According to programingplease, the first encounter with Greece’s second largest city is sobering as with almost any modern metropolis. Hardly restrained traffic torments its way through overcrowded streets, modern, uniform concrete buildings testify to a quickly satisfied demand for housing in the 20th century.

But when you explore the city center, the other Thessaloniki gradually emerges, traces of the city become recognizable, which was celebrated in 1997 as the »European Capital of Culture«. In a very small space you can find evidence of Roman palaces and markets, baths such as the Hamam Bey from the time of Ottoman rule, as well as lordly villas such as the Casa Blanca and the Villa Mordoch. This juxtaposition of different epochs, this diverse mixture of architectural monuments is what makes this city so special, which was created in the fourth century BC. The city is really unique in its multitude of Byzantine monuments, a colorful kaleidoscope of Christian-Byzantine architecture from the 4th to the 15th century. The connoisseur and lover of Byzantine architecture, Painting and mosaic art gives you the opportunity to experience the history of Byzantine art with your own eyes. It was not for nothing that Thessaloniki was given honorable terms such as “Princess of the Mediterranean” and “co-capital” next to the Byzantine imperial capital Constantinople.

A chronological walk through the art of Byzantium could begin with the Rotênda, the most important building from the time of Roman rule. Converted into a Christian church in the 4th century, the church was subsequently given mosaic decorations, which were of particular importance in the early days of Byzantine art. The dome, which is almost 25 meters in diameter, adorns the representation of praying martyrs in the Hellenistic tradition of Byzantine art in eight fields in front of a richly designed architectural backdrop. Mighty and yet airy rows of columns divide the building of the 5th century church Ágios Dimítrios into five naves; Due to the numerous windows, the long nave remains flooded with light. The mosaics and wall paintings of the church are not related to each other in any special way, they come from different epochs and thus form an overview of the history of Byzantine painting. Tucked away, the small Ósios Davíd church has a special feature: One of the mosaics shows the youthful, beardless Jesus, seldom depicted in this way, who is surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists – an impressive composition in form and color, both of the “heavenly atmosphere” as well as the characterization of the figures.

The church of Agía Sophía, built in the 8th century, is of particular architectural interest, as it marks the transition from a basilica to a cross-domed church with access. Its dome mosaic, which has the »Ascension of Christ« as its theme, is one of the most important mosaics of Byzantine art and represents the revival of painting after the picture dispute of the 9th century. The lively and expressive scenery is also well designed in terms of color and adapts perfectly to the spherical inner surface of the dome. In the Ágii Apêstoli church, the so-called »renaissance of the paleologists« is reflected particularly well. With their rich plastic ceramic jewelry.

Monuments of Thessaloniki