The historical profile of Thessaloniki, which began in the Hellenistic era and has continued uninterrupted to the present day, is mainly linked to its Byzantine life. The walled city and its monuments can reasonably be called an open Byzantine Museum. All city monuments, Byzantine,
Post – Byzantine and Ottoman – have been declared as historical landmark monuments. Fifteen (15) of the Early Christian – Byzantine monuments were included in the UNESCO World Heritage
List in 1988 [Twelfth Session, Brasilia, Brazil, 5 – 9 December 1988 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/456 ].
A strong fortification wall, trapezoid in shape, with alternating triangular redans and square towers,as well as an outwork surrounds the city. Its construction, which incorporated remnants from the previous Hellenistic and Roman fortifications, dates back to the late 4th century, during the
era of Emperor Theodosius. The city was protected from the sea by a low wall, which, at its south– western corner, encompassed the port of Constantine the Great. On the walls and the extant
inscriptions, which bear witness to the repairs and reconstruction of the walls over the centuries,the tumultuous history of the city is artfully recorded.
Thessaloniki, Unesco Monuments,Early Christian and Byzantine Monuments
Originally built as a centrally planned building on the axis of the monumental street connecting the triumphal arch of Galerius with the palace complex. There are varying opinions on its use, such as being a temple of Zeus or the Cabeiri, a building of a possibly devotional and secular – administrative character that served the needs of the palace complex, or a monument dedicated to the glory of Constantine the Great. The monument, with a diameter of 24.50m is covered by a bricked dome, reaching a height of 29.80m. The 6.30m – thick cylindrical wall internally inscribes eight rectangular niches, the south niche serving as the main entrance.
The building was converted into a Christian church, possibly dedicated to the Aghioi Asomatoi or the Archangels, during the Early Christian era. A gallery was added along its perimeter and in order to communicate with the original core, seven of the eight niches along the walls were demolished, the eastern niches being expanded with the addition of a sanctuary, a new entrance with a narthex being created at the western niches and a propylon and two chapels being added at the south entrance. However, the most magnificent remains from the Early Christian phase of the monument are its excellent mosaics that decorate the arches of the niches and the intrados of the windows, while the glorious decoration reaches its climax with the mosaics of the dome in three zones. Earthquakes in the early 7th century caused the destruction of the sanctuary’s arch, the section above the dome and, possibly, the gallery. After being restored, the arch was externally strengthened with two buttresses and was decorated in the 9th century with a mural of the Ascension.
The history of the city is recorded on its walls
and, at times, on the extant inscriptions, bearing
witness to the repeated repairs and reconstructions
of the walls over the course of the centuries.
Remains from the Hellenistic and, subsequently,
Roman fortifications of the city were
incorporated in the late 4th century into the new
fortification wall, trapezoid in shape, which encompassed
Thessaloniki. The total perimeter
of the city walls comes to 8km. On the plains,
strong triangular redans alternated with square
towers, while the wall was also strengthened
with an outwork. On the sea side, the city was
protected by a low fortification wall.
Part of the Early Christian wall and outwork is
preserved at Dimokratias Square. This is where
the main entrance to the city, the Golden Gate,
stood until 1874, when it was demolished, serving
as the starting point to the main road of the
city, the Roman decumanus maximus and, subsequently,
the Byzantine Leoforos. Part of the
wall continues uphill along present – day Irinis
Street, up to its junction with Aghiou Dimitriou
Street, where the second main decumanus of
the city was situated. This is where the second
main gate of the city from the west, Litea, was located,
leading to the provinces, the Mygdonian
cirque and Liti.
North – western Walls
The walls heading up towards the Acropolis follow
the rocky geomorphology of the terrain.
The NW section of the wall was added during
the reign of Manuel II Palaeologus, who served
as Despot of Thessaloniki from 1369 to 1373.
Acropolis Walls – Laparda
Tower – Anna Palaeologina
Gate – Trigonion Tower or
The so – called intermediate wall (diameso) that
separated the Acropolis from Ano Poli (the Upper
City) extended to the west, approximately
opposite Vlatadon Monastery, and reached Trigonion
Tower to the east. The erection of towers
on the intermediate wall towards the interior of
the Acropolis, which originally formed the external
facade of the city wall, confirms the subsequent
addition of the Acropolis to the initial
fortification walls. The extant inscriptions on
the rectangular tower known as Laparda Tower,
which stands opposite Vlatadon Monastery,
concern the extensive interventions on the fortification
of the Acropolis in the 12th century.
Following the intermediate wall towards the
NE stands the Gate of Anna Paleologina (1355
– 1356), as noted on the inscription carved into
the marble doorframe. This gate led to the area
outside the walls.
The intermediate wall ends in the NE at Alysseos
Tower or, as it is better known, Trigonion Tower.
This is a circular tower constructed in the 15th
century, incorporating an older square tower
that stood at that location, forming part of the
Trigonion Tower, along with the Vardaris Fort
and the White Tower, were incorporated in the
new fortification strengthening the defending
system applied by the Ottomans in their effort
to adapt to changes in military tactics brought
about by the use of gunpowder.
Walls – White Tower – Outwork
The walls, at times built on rocky hills and at
times on the remains of Roman fortifications,
head downwards, proud and stately, to Aghiou
Dimitriou Street and from there, almost
humble, after 1889, to the sea. Through Filikis
Etairias Street, where visible sections of
the outwork and triangular redans of the main
wall are preserved, they reach the White Tower,
which stands at the junction of the sea wall
and the land wall. The tower, in its present – day
form, was built in the 15th century as a part of
the modernisation of fortifications, replacing an
older Byzantine tower.
From the gates of the eastern section of the wall,
the locations of two main gates are known, situated
on the two main road axes of the city: the
New Golden Gate, corresponding to the Litea
Gate, and the Cassandreotiki Gate (or Kalamaria
Gate), corresponding to the Golden Gate.
The Heptapyrgion fort stands at the highest
point of the Acropolis, on the NE end of the city
walls. It is a complex of various construction
phases from the Early Christian – early Byzantine
period up to the years of Ottoman rule, with the
addition of newer buildings and auxiliary areas
when it was converted into a prison in the 19th
century, and, finally, during the late 1990s, mild
interventions and necessary conversion took
place so that the building could house the offices
of the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
On the walls of the fort complex, with its numerous
ceramoplastic and marble architectural elements
from various eras incorporated at various
points, numerous phases of construction can be
detected, equal and corresponding in number,
and the many adventures of the building over
time, interwoven with the long and tumultuous
history of the city, are depicted.
The original core of the fort consists of ten towers,
eight four – sided ones and two triangular
ones, along with their intermediate sections, the
oldest being the northern section, which was
incorporated in the layout of the Early Christian
fortification of the Acropolis, with numerous
subsequent interventions. During the Middle
Byzantine era, the towers on the southern
side were added, completing the enclosure of
the fort. The marble Ottoman inscription of 1431,
built into the wall above the transom of the main
entrance, denotes interventions and renovations
to towers and sections of the fort during
the years after the conquest of the city and its
last refuge, the Heptapyrgion.
Written sources on the fort are either silent, as
is the case in the early Byzantine era, or sparing
and confused, as is the case in the Middle and
Late Byzantine eras, where references to the
Koulas of Thessaloniki are at times related to the
Heptapyrgion and at times to the Acropolis. The
name Heptapyrgion occurs during the Ottoman
era, possibly imitating Yedi Kule (Seven Towers),
a 15th century fort in Istanbul with an equal number
of towers, indeed.
The monument burdened with its very recent
memory of being a prison, which its new use not
only failed to eradicate but actually preserved
and showcased in the exhibition operating
on the ground floor of one of the newer buildings
of the complex, is open to the public of the
city, while its premises, both open and closed,
are made available for cultural events under the
auspices of the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.
The small church is located in the Ano Poli, at the
cul de sac of Aghias Sofias Street. It was once
the catholicon of the monastery of Christou Sotira
tou Latomou or ton Latomon, a name due to
the existence of stone quarries in the area. The
church was built in the late 5th century in the
cross – in – square type with an apse on the east
side. Today, the eastern half of the original facade
has survived. The church is primarily known
for its mosaic of the vision of Prophet Ezekiel in
its apse, one of the most important mosaics of
the Early Christian era.
Situated on the Aghiou Dimitriou Street, north
of the ancient Agora and the Byzantine Megalophoros,
built on the ruins of a Roman bath complex,
this was where Demetrius, an officer in the
Roman Army, was imprisoned and martyred in
303. A small private chapel was first built there.
In the mid – 5th century, Leontius, prefect of Illyricum,
erect a large basilica at the same location,
which burned down during the earthquake
of 620. With the contribution of Prefect Leontius
and the Bishop of Thessaloniki, the basilica
was restored to its original form of a five –
aisled wooden – roofed basilica with a transept
and gallery. The present – day restored form of
the church – which was destroyed almost completely
in the fire of 1917 – is the result of extensive
restoration works that began in 1918 and
ended in 1948.
The tomb of the saint is located in the NW corner,
where it was believed to have stood in the Early
– Christian era. The church, dedicated to the patron
saint of Thessaloniki, is a pilgrim church and
is primarily renowned for its mosaics that survived
the great fire of 1917. Eleven votive mosaics
of the 5th, 7th and 9th century are preserved at
the two pillars of the sanctuary and at the western
wall of the central aisle.
Beneath the transept of the Church is the Crypt,
which, in the Late Byzantine Era, was the centre
of the Saint’s miraculous myrrh production.
Under Ottoman rule, this underground area was
filled in and abandoned, while memory of its existence
seems to have dissipated in the subsequent
years. It was discovered due to the destructive
fire of 1917. Since 1985, it has housed an
exhibition, consisting of seven halls (A – G) and
primarily consists of Early Christian and Byzantine
sculptures that testify to each period of the
long history of the Basilica of Aghios Dimitrios.
Two display cases present coins and ceramics
that originated from the fill that covered the interior
of the Crypt.
The Great Church of the Virgin Mary is situated
in the centre of the city on Aghias Sofias
Street. It was built in the 5th century as a
three – aisled wooden – roofed basilica with a
narthex and gallery, over the ruins of a Roman
bath complex. A small alcoved building connected
to its south side served the worshipping
needs of the church, while a small chapel
dedicated to Aghia Irene was attached to the
eastern side during the Byzantine period. The
Basilica interior stands out for its architectural
sculptures on the colonnades separating the
three aisles, while excellent mosaics are also
preserved on the intrados of the arches of the
colonnade, the galleries and the trivelon (arcade)
in the narthex.
This church, dedicated to Christ, the true Word
and Wisdom of God, was built in the late 7th
– early 8th century at the location of a large
5th century Early Christian Basilica. It is a typical
example of a domed transitional cruciform
church with ambulatory, in imitation of the
Aghia Sophia in Constantinople. The mosaic
decoration in its interior, a work of three stages,
testifies to the high intellectual and artistic
level of the city throughout the centuries. The
decoration of the sanctuary is one of the most
important precisely dated paintings of the
Iconoclastic period (780 – 788). The Ascension
depicted on the dome is a superb example
of the so – called Renaissance of the Macedonian
Emperors in the late 9th century, while
the Virgin Enthroned with Christ in the apse,
a work of the 11th – 12th century, covered the
great iconoclastic cross.
The Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is
located south of the ancient agora, at the SE
corner of the Byzantine Megalophoros, in the
coppersmith district from where its name is
derived. It is a precisely dated monument with
an inscription on the marble lintel of the western
entrance: It was built in 1028 as a sepulchral
chapel, by Christophoros, Protospatharios
and Katepano (Governor) of Lagouvardia,
his wife Maria and his children Nikiphoros,
Anna and Katakali. The tomb of the founder
is located in an arcosolium within the northern
wall of the church. It is built in the domed
cross – in – square architectural type. The elegant
proportions of the monument and its
brick walls consisting of blind arches, blind
niches and half – columns are indicative of a
Constantinopolitan influence. A second written
inscription confirms the concurrence of its
murals and its founding.
The only public Byzantine bath currently preserved
in Thessaloniki is located on the outskirts
of the Ano Poli, on Theotokopoulou
Street. This is a small building of rectangular
design, possibly dating back to the 13th century,
and retains all the areas necessary for a
bath: an antechamber, a tepid area, a warm
area and a founding.
At the junction of Arrianou and Iassonidou
Street, a short distance from the Arch of
Galerius and the Rotunda, lies the Byzantine
church of Aghios Panteleimon. The Church,
the name of which is quite recent, served as
the catholicon of the Theotokou Perivleptou
Monastery, also known as kyr Isaac’s Monastery,
after its founder, Metropolite Jacob (1295
– 1314). It is built in the complex domed cross
– in – square type with an ambulatory, ending
in the east with two chapels. Of its initial murals,
few examples survive in the prothesis and
At the beginning of Olympou Street and close
to the western walls lies the Church of Aghioi
Apostoloi, once the catholicon of a monastery
dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built by Patriarch
Nephon (1310 – 1314) and his pupil, Abbot Pavlos.
It is built in the complex five – domed tetrastyle
cross – in – square type with an ambulatory.
Of great interest is the structure of the
external facades of the monument, with the
ceramoplastic elements on its eastern side
standing out. Its interior contains excellent
mosaic decoration, characteristic of the final
period of Palaeologan art.
In the Ano Poli, between Herodotou Street
and Apostolou Pavlou Street, close to the
eastern walls and within an enclosed yard
lies the Church of Aghios Nikolaos Orphanos,which also served as the catholicon of a Byzantine
monastery. It is built in the aisleless timber –
roofed type with ambulatory, ending in the east
with two chapels. Its exquisite mural decoration
is one of most complete painting complexes preserved
in Thessaloniki and is representative of
Palaeologan art. Of the monastery complex, excluding
the catholicon, only ruins of its entrance
survive on Herodotou Street.
Above Olympiados Street, on the outskirts of
the Ano Poli, at the junction of Tsamadou and
Oedipoda Street, close the NW walls, lies the
Church of Aghia Ekaterini, which once served as
the catholicon of a Byzantine monastery. It dates
back to the late 13th – early 14th century. It is built
in the complex tetrastyle cross – in – square type
with five domes and an ambulatory terminating
in two chapels at the east end. Its elegant proportions
and the structure of its facades, with
recessed niches and arches, ceramic half – columns
and ceramoplastic decoration, make this
monument an excellent example of Palaeologan
architecture. Its mural decoration, although surviving
in fragments, follows the painting tradition
of the early Palaeologan Renaissance.
At the junction of Egnatias and Paleon Patron
Germanou Street lies the small church dedicated
to the Saviour. It was built in 1340, possibly
as a sepulchral chapel to a Byzantine monastery,
and was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
It was built as a tetraconch inscribed in a square
plan. The western conch was demolished in 1936
in order to add a narthex. The mural decoration
in its interior dates back to 1350 – 1370 and is part
of the Palaeologan tradition
Immediately outside the walls of the Acropolis,
on Acropoleos Street, lies the Patriarchal
and stauropegic Vlatadon monastery, the only
Byzantine monastery still holding services
in the city. It was founded between 1351 and
1371 by the monk Dorotheus Vlatis, a pupil of
Gregory Palamas, and subsequently Metropolite
of Thessaloniki. Of the original complex,
only the catholicon survives, built in the cross
– in – square type with an ambulatory ending
in chapels. The mural decoration in its interior
dates between 1360 and 1380. The church was
initially dedicated to Christ Pantokrator and
today honours Transfiguration of the Saviour.
On Olympiados Street, at its junction with
Profiti Elia Street, on a naturally rocky elevation,
lies the imposing Church of Profitis Ilias.
It is unique in Thessaloniki in terms of its architectural
type : a tetrastyle cross – in – square
trincoch with a narthex (lite) and an ambulatory
terminating in two chapels. The Church was
dedicated to Christ and served as the catholicon
of the Akapniou Monastery. Of its iconographic
decoration, only the portrayal of the
Infanticide, representative of the final period
of Palaeologan painting, survives in the
The ancient forum of Thessaloniki occupied an area of about 20,000 square meters, and is surrounded by the current Olympou and Filippou Streets. It was in the center of the roman city.
There, there were the public buildings and various areas that were laid out with uniform architecture on two climactic levels. The complex was the financial and commercial center of the city.
However, it also had an administrative and recreational character. During the empire years, it became a monument.
From the forum buildings, the lodge has been reconstructed and offered for exhibitions, conferences and concerts since 1966. Also, the conservatoire (accommodating 350 persons) has been reconstructed and given for use since 1997
The White Tower, the monument-symbol of Thessaloniki, which now stands alone at the beach of the city, once was the south-eastern tower of its fortification.
The tower was cylindrical with a height of 33.90 meters and a diameter of 22.70 meters. It has a basement and six floors, communicating with internal stairs, 120 meters high, which twist touching the external wall, leaving a circular core with a diameter of 8.50 meters in the center.
Thus, a central circular room is formed on each floor. Smaller four-sided rooms, open in the thickness of the external wall, communicate with it. The last floor has only one central room, outside which an attic is created and offers a breathtaking view to the city and the sea.
As historical accounts and the internal layout of the spaces reveal, the tower not only had a defensive use, but also was a military accommodation. Until the early 20th century, the tower was surrounded by a low octagonal yard, supported by octagonal turrets on its three corners.
Inside, there was a dervish retreat, gunpowder warehouses and a water tank, while on its entrance, there was a Turkish sign mentioning that the tower of Leon was constructed in 1535-1536, a date possibly referring to the construction of the yard.
The most famous monument of Thessaloniki, together with the White Tower, and one of the most typical ones of Late Antiquity, when Thessaloniki became the capital of Caesar Galerius, is the arch or triumphal arch of Galerius, known today as Kamara.
In its original form, it was a building with eight gates, 4 massive pillars, 4 secondary ones on its side, the same number of arcs and a low spherical dome. Nowadays, tow main pillars and one secondary, connected with a brick arc, are preserved. From the accounts of events on the relief plates, it is concluded that the arch was built in 305 AD, after the final victory of Emperor Galerius against the Persians. The art Kamara’s reliefs is both narrative and decorative. The main feature is the amount of pictures and figures. For decoration, natural proportions are often overlooked (elephants have the same height as horses, or horses are smaller than humans).
In general, the art of reliefs aims more at visual values than plastic ones. However, Kamara’s reliefs still have Hellenistic grace. The craftsmen of the reliefs must have been Greeks.
This is also evident from the Greek inscriptions which are engraved among the pictures of the reliefs: Tigris River, Universe etc. In the 14 zones of the northern pillar, battles and the course of Galerius and his army to the country of the Persians are depicted.
On the contrary, the 14 zones of the southern pillar propagandize the military power of Galerius and the political power and unity of the Tetrarchy as a system that can govern the world.
Admire the sculptures and statues of the city of Thessaloniki from the Archaic, Classic and Roman era.
In a special section of the museum, there are treasures discovered in Vergina in 1978 and in Derveni in 1984.
The Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki was established in order to become a center of conservation, research and study of the evidence of the
Byzantine culture preserved in Macedonia and particularly in Thessaloniki, the city that was the most important center after Istanbul, in the European part of the Byzantine Empire.
It is worth discovering the collections of sculptures, fresco paintings, mosaics, pictures and inscriptions from the Byzantine era.
Thessaloniki Cinema Museum
The Thessaloniki Cinema Museum started when the city of Thessaloniki, in 1997, became the “Cultural Capital of Europe”.
This initiative coincided with the global celebration of the 100 years of the Cinema.
The Thessaloniki Cinema Museum, operating under the supervision of the Greek Ministry of Culture, is an independent part of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.
It aims at gathering, preserving and presenting the cinema life in Greece in a museum.
(Port – Warehouse A’, Thessaloniki)
Museum of Photography of Thessaloniki
The important activities of the Museum of Photography of Thessaloniki includes the holding of exhibitions (50 every year at the Museum of Photography of Thessaloniki and other halls) with the aim of promoting the Greek and also international photography, and presenting the various uses and approaches of photography.
The exhibitions are divided in exhibition cycles: “Glances at the City”, “Great Creators”, “Greek immigrants” “The four elements of nature and the human” etc. Every two years, the Museum holds the International Photography Festival Photobiennale, which was developed from the twenty-year Photography Meeting, presenting more than 25 exhibitions in 30 halls all around the city of Thessaloniki, in which artists from Greece and abroad participate, as well as holding the Το the sectors of portfolio reviews with the participation of 20 professional photographers from all over the world, the awards (Cedefop Award / Museum of Photography of Thessaloniki, Pilsner Urquell Award), masterclasses, galas, workshops and parallel events.
(Warehouse Α’ , Thessaloniki Port)