Thessaloniki (520 km. north of Athens) is the second largest city of Greece and the most important centre of the area. Built near the sea (at the back of the Thermaïkos Gulf), it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm.
Ever since the 4th c. BC when it was founded, Thessaloniki has kept its urban character and has remained a civic centre and the hub of that region.The city’s centuries-old multicultural history has been associated with great empires, as it has known the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Rule. The town was also greatly influenced by many ethnic and religious groups (Jews, Latins, Armenians and others) as well as Greeks from Constantinople, Pontus [modern-day northeastern Turkey] and Asia Minor [a.k.a. Anatolia].
The ancient forum (dated to the late 2nd or the early 3rd century AD) with squares, porticoes, additional buildings and odeum (293-395 AD), the palace complex of Galerius Maximianus (4th c. AD), the thermae, the hippodrome, the temples and other monuments and moveable finds (among them mosaics of exquisite art) brought to light in excavations and surveys. In the south square, is the famous Stoa of the Idols, which was two-storeyed and lavishly decorated.
The Triumphal Arch of Galerius (Kamara), built in AD 305 to commemorate his military successes in general in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.
The Rotunda is an early 4th century building which later was converted into a Christian church. Built in 306 A.D. by the romans, Rotunda is one of the oldest religious sites of the city. Going back to the late 3rd century A.D., after a number of long devastating wars, the romans decided to divide the Empire into 4 regions, each with its own provinces , thus leading to the creation of a new form of leadership, the Tetrarchy.
Original intensions were predicting its use as a mausoleum, although many archaeologists believe it was initially used as a roman temple. The dimensions of the main structure are quite impressive. The administrative needs of the Tetrarchy led Galerius to the construction of the Imperial complex in Thessaloniki because of its importance as one of the capitals, after he came into power being one of the 4 rulers.
Thessaloniki, with its host of Byzantine monuments (due to it’s significance during the Byzantine period), justifiably is considered an open-air museum of Byzantine art. Wandering through the city, it is worthwhile to see:
• The churches of Acheiropoietos (5th century) a three-aisled, timber-roofed basilica, the Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) (7th century), the Panaghia (Virgin) Chalkeon (1028), Hosios David (12thcentury), St Panteleemon (late 13th or the early 14th century), is of four-columned cross-in-square type, Ayioi Apostoloi (1310-1314),Taxiarches (14th century), Panagouda a three-aisled basilica with significant icons, Agios Ioannis Prodromos (Nymphaion),Vlatadon monastery a 14th century foundation of which only the katholikon and two cisterns within the precinct survive, Ayios Demetrios a splendid basilica dedicated to the patron saint and protector of the city, etc.
• The byzantine walls of the city.
• The archaeological site in 3 Septemvriou St., with remnants of a cemetery basilica, a martyrion and Early Christian graves.
• The byzantine bathhouse (late thirteenth century).
• The Heptapyrgion castle was raised in stages, from the early years of the Byzantine Age into the Ottoman period.
1) The White Tower (15th century), the hallmark of the city. It is perhaps the most recognizable spot in Thessaloniki. Depicted on all types of souvenirs and favourite clothes, photographed from all angles, in all seasons and at each hour of the day, it has come to be imprinted on our collective unconscious, an archetypal image.
Most likely it was built during the early Ottoman period, sometime after 1530. It is believed by some that the architect of this defensive fortress was Mimar Sinan, who also built a very similar tower in the port of Valona in Albania. What is certain though is that this impressive piece of architecture was built on top of a pre-existing Byzantine building. The White Tower, apart from being a great architectural monument, is a reference point in Thessaloniki. Dominating the shore, it has become a meeting point and a good place for a walk.
Today the renovated White Tower is used as an exhibition centre. Under the auspices of the Museum of Byzantine Culture a permanent exhibition is on display dedicated to Thessaloniki, which allows the visitor to acquire a detailed knowledge of the successive historical periods of this great city. At the same time significant temporary exhibitions are held, such as for example exhibitions on Byzantine religious painting. The renovation of the monument and the themes it hosts show a deep respect both for its architectural style as well as its significance.
2) The Mosques of the Hamza Bey Cami (15th century), the Aladja Imaret Cami (1484) and the Yeni Cami (1902).
3) Hamams (Turkish bathhouses): The Pazar Hamam (15th century), the Pasha Hamam (15th century), Bey Hamam (16th century), Yeni Hamam and the Yahudi Hamam.
4) Bezesteni, a rectangular building with lead-covered domes and four entraces was built in the late fifteenth century and operated as a cloth market.
5) The Atatürk Museum, is a historic house museum in Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece. The house is the birthplace of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was born here in 1881.
• The Old City (Ano Polis), in which many notable examples of Ottoman and traditional Macedonian architecture still stand, alongside humble dwellings put up by the refugees who reached Thessaloniki in droves, after the Greek defeat in Asia Minor, in 1922.
• The historical quarter of the Ladadika. In recent years, a series of interventions to rehabilitate the urban fabric have helped to enhance the Ladadika as a quarter for leisure pursuits.
• The traditional markets: the Modiano, which is housed in a rectangular building of 1922, with pedimented facade and glass roof; the Kapani or Vlalis market; Athonos Square and the ‘Louloudadika’ (literally flower market).
• Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, lined with many representative Neoclassical buildings and examples of late 19thcentury eclectic architecture.
• The central Aristotelous Square, surrounded by monumental buildings and open to the waterfront for a width of 100 metres.
• Mylos (literally mill). An old industrial complex, built in 1924, today have been remodelled to house cultural events and leisure activities, as well as the industrial buildings of the old FIX Brewery and the VILKA plant.
• Lazarist monastery (1886) by the monastic order of the Brothers of Mercy, and now used for cultural events.
• Royal Theatre
• Thessaloniki Concert Hall. A newly-built, magnificent yet austere, multipurpose venue for cultural and other events.
• YMCA Building, a building of 1924, with a mixture of Neocolonial and Byzantesque architectural elements.
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