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“Agios Dimitrios is arguably considered the most important church of Thessaloniki by the majority of the locals for religious, historical and artistic reasons as well. Devoted to the patron Saint of the city, it has a long and rich history that pretty much depicts some of the city’s most important events of that shaped its identity. The temple is a fine sample of Byzantine religious architecture of the late early period of the Empire (7th century A.D.). The initial architectural design and interior decoration was significantly deteriorated, due to continuous reconstructions, additions and several disasters that occurred throughout the centuries. Dated back to the 4th century A.D., a small chapel was constructed over the ruins of older roman baths. More than a century later, the initial structure was replaced by a three aisled Basilica, by a prefect named Leontios, while finally reconstructed in 629 – 634 A.D., as a five aisled basilica. During the Ottoman occupation period, the church was turned into a mosque as Thessaloniki was captured by the ottomans. A number of mosaics and wall paintings were destroyed (1430 A.D.). A wonderful temple full of Byzantine treasures A number of different styles applied to the church, make Agios Dimitrios unique in terms of religious art. The church’s unusual hexagonal shrine (ciborium),is of special interest, while the older 5th century mosaics are of special value and beauty. Another interesting event was the fire that nearly destroyed the building in 1917. One of the side effects of this disaster was the revelation of a number of older mosaics dated back to 7th century AD. These mosaics were either created or reconstructed after an older disaster in ~ 630 A.D. This was only a chapter of the tragedy, as the fire of the 1917 destroyed a huge part of the city center as well. After the fire, massive restoration efforts took place that lasted for many years. The place attracts many guests and religious art specialists, especially from central and eastern Europe and many orthodox countries as well. The Crypt The secrets beneath the temple.. The wonderfully crafted, detailed capitals of the columns, the colorful Byzantine mosaics and the underground Crypt will turn your visit into a unique experience! Perhaps the most famous and interesting part of the temple, is the underground ancient “Crypt”. The crypt was re-discovered after the fire of 1917 and was finally restored as an exhibition/museum in 1988. According to the Christian Tradition, the saint was imprisoned here and died in 303 A.D. It is a well-designed and restored ancient building that surprises most visitors because of its atmosphere and exhibits. For more info and photos of the temple’s Crypt click here to view our Facebook page! It is said that the ancient crypt under the temple is just a small part of a huge tunnel system that connects the Roman Palace of Galerius with The Arch of Galerius, Rotunda and the City Walls…. Behind the shrine of the temple you can still see some columns (kiones) from the ancient structures that were later used as material incorporated to the first church, in 4th/5 century A.D. ”
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“If you're in Thessaloniki, make sure to visit Toms for great coffee in a cool, urban spot.”
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