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THESSALONIKI

BYZANTINE CITY

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THESSALONIKI UNESCO ROUTE

17 MONUMENTS

Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Cassander, King of Macedonia. That it was named for his wife, Thessaloniki, who was the daughter of Philip II and the sister of Alexander the Great. History later brought the Romans to Thessaloniki, and they left their mark on the city with the Arch of Galerius.

History, too, was to bring to Thessaloniki the Apostle Paul, who had journeyed into Macedonia to found the first Christian churches. There is a folk tradition that the Gentiles in the city pelted him with stones. And that the Apostle to the Nations lost his Christian patience and pronounced a curse on Thessaloniki: that the stones should never be removed from its streets. And from that day on tradition has called the people of Thessaloniki “Paul-accursed”, and the streets of the city have never yet been cleared of those stones.

 

Half a century later, she sent the city boatloads of persecuted Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. And when, after another three and a half centuries, the opening shots in the struggle for liberation were fired in the Morea in 1821, history brought their echo to Thessaloniki to give wings to the hopes of the enslaved. But their uprising was quenched in their own blood, and another ninety years had to pass before that same history, escorted by the Makedonomachoi, brought freedom to the ancient but still vital city of Saint Demetrius. And it was 26 October 1912, the feast day of the saint.

The visitor who sees the contemporary city with its broad straight streets and tall modern buildings will have trouble imagining what it looked like seventy years ago. 

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BYZANTINE FORTRESS

01. WALLS: EASTERN & WESTERN

The frescoes found in the Byzantine church of Agioi Apostoloi belong to the masterpieces of Palaeologian icon-painting. The figures are characterized by their elegance, their gentleness and the grace of their movements. They are related to the works in Constantinople, and they seem to have been largely influenced by the spirit and the artistic expression of the capital city. The depiction of the Tree of Jesse covers the eastern end of the south colonnade.

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BYZANTINE FORTRESS

02. HEPTAPYRGION (YENTI KOULE)

At the highest point of the city, built amphitheatrically on the slope, we can see the imposing form of the Eptapyrgion (Seven Towers – Gendi Koulé). It covers the north part of the Acropolis.

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BYZANTINE FORTRESS

03. TRIGONIOU TOWER

The Trigonio tower, known as the Artillery, or Chain Tower, dates from the same period as the White Tower.

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BYZANTINE FORTRESS

04. ROTUNDA

Rotunda is a pericentral construction, unique in Greece. It was part of the palace complex built by Cesar Galerius in the first years of the Roman tetrarchy, when Galerius was based in Thessaloniki. One theory has it that it was built as Galerius’ mausoleum, but was never used, and during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395 AD) it was converted into a Christian church. 

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BYZANTINE FORTRESS & MUSEUM

05. WHITE TOWER

The White Tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki, and a point of reference for the inhabitants and the visitors to the city, is the remnant of the sea walls that were demolished in 1873. It was located at the point where the eastern walls joined the sea walls of the city; today it stands isolated in the coastal park next to the sea front.

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

07. LATOMOU MONASTERY (OSIOS DAVID)

The conch of the katholikon in the Latomos monastery, known as the church of Osios David, is decorated with the vision of Ezekiel…

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BYZANTINE MONASTERY & MUSEUM

08. VLATADON MONASTERY

The patriarchal monastery of Vlatadon was founded in the period 1351-1371 century, belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and is the only Byzantine monastery in Thessaloniki that is still functioning today. It took its name from its founders, who were the brothers Dorotheos and Markos Vlatis.

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

09. CHURCH OF PROFITIS ELIAS

The church of Prophitis Elias (Prophet Elijah) is one of the most important examples of Palaeologian churches in Thessaloniki. The diversity of the volumes on the exterior surfaces, the ceramoplastic décor on the domes and the apses compose an impressive and imposing complex. It is one of the most intricate constructions of Byzantine architecture.

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

10. CHURCH OF AGIA EKATERINI

Τhe small, elegant, Byzantine church of Agia Ekaterini belongs to the category of composite four-column cross-in-square churches, like two other churches in Thessaloniki, Agios Pandeleimon and Agioi Apostoloi. Their facades present great diversity as they are structured with apses, niches and brick semi-columns that are ornamented with a rich ceramoplastic décor.

BYZANTINE CHURCH

The first church of Agios Demetrios was a small oratory founded after the Edict of Milan which permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire (313 AD). A century later, the eparch (provincial governor) of Illyricon, Leontios, founded on the same site a big three-aisled basilica, retaining under the sanctuary the part of the Roman baths where the saint suffered martyrdom…

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BYZANTINE BATHS

12. BYZANTINE BATH (UPPER TOWN)

In Ano Poli, the only public bath of the Byzantine era in Greece, known from the years of the Ottoman occupation as the “Koule Hamam”, has been preserved. It was built at the end of the 13th century and operated continuously for seven centuries (until 1940) as a district bath. Although the Koule hamam is small compared to the other public baths in the city, it has all the necessary facilities for bathers.

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

13. CHURCH OF AGIA SOFIA

It was imperative for Thessaloniki, an important administrative, economic and ecclesiastic centre of Byzantium, to have its own Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) equal to the church of Agia Sophia in Constantinople. The surviving church was built in the mid 7th century on the site of an Early-Christian five-aisled basilica, and it served as the city Cathedral…

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

14. CHURCH OF ACHEIROPoIeTOS

In the city centre, to the east of the ancient forum, one of the four main churches of the city, the church of Theotokos (Virgin Mary) still survives. The church after the end of the Frankish rule (1224) was given the name “Acheiropoietos” (not made by human hand). This name was taken from the icon of Panagia Acheiropoietos (Holy Virgin not made by human hands), that was kept in the church…

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

15. CHURCH OF PANAGIA HALKEON

The church of Panagia Chalkeon (Our Lady of the Coppersmiths), to the southwest of the ancient market, was built in 1028. Its name could be related to the coppersmiths’ workshops that were found in the vicinity. Some can still be found to the west of the monuments…

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

16. CHURCH OF METAMORFOSIS SOTIROS

The small Byzantine church of the Saviour, facing the triumphant arch of Galerius, with the square ground plan and the tall – for the dimensions of the church – dome, dates to the mid 14th century…

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

17. CHURCH OF TWELVE APOSTLES

The frescoes found in the Byzantine church of Agioi Apostoloi belong to the masterpieces of Palaeologian icon-painting. The figures are characterized by their elegance, their gentleness and the grace of their movements…

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BYZANTINE CHURCH

18. CHURCH OF AGIOS PANTELEIMON

The church of Agios Panteleimonas, the catholicon (main church) of a Byzantine monastery, is situated in Iasonidou street, near the junction with Egnatia street. Donor of the monastery was Iakovos, the Metropolitan Bishop of Thessaloniki, who had the Episcopal throne of the city in the years 1295-1314…

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