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Church of Agios Dimitrios

St. Dimitrios was considered the city’s patron saint ever since the Byzantine times. The Church of Agios Dimitrios was restored following the fire of 1917.

  1. Modern and Contemporary era (1912 - )


    1912 Converted into a christian church after the city's incorporation into the Greek State.

    1917 Burned down during the great fire of Thessaloniki.

    1949 Restoration completed.

  2. Ottoman era (1453- 1912)


    At the end of the 15th century, it was converted into a mosque.

  3. Byzantine era (331 AC- 1453)


    The three-aisled basilica was built in the mid-5th century.

    620 A.D. Burned after a devastating earthquake. Restored as a basilica around 630 AD.

    904 A.D. It was looted by the Saracens.

    1185 A.D. It was looted by the Normans.

  4. Roman era (30 BC- 330 AC)


  5. Hellenistic era (322- 31 BC)


  6. Classical era (478-323 BC)


  7. Archaic era (800-479 BC)


  8. Geometric era (-1100- 800 BC)


  9. Prehistory (-1100 BC)


What I can see

The church is a basilica with transverse aisle. Its five aisles are separated by colonnades, with an especially luxurious central one. The Church of Agios Dimitrios was restored following the fire of 1917. Today, we can still see the original design of the church, as surviving parts of the previous phases have been incorporated into the new structure. During the final phase of the restoration, a beam of reinforced concrete, only 6 cm thick, was placed, so the roof looks wooden.  The area was the site of Roman baths and much later became a stadium. This is why in the northwest end of the church, a section of a Roman bath and the chapel with the patron saint’s cenotaph with the inscription “The Holy Church in the stadium” have survived. Part of the Roman bath occupies a Christian crypt, where during the Early Christian and Byzantine periods was the place of worship of the Saint. Despite common belief, the Saint’s relic is not kept here. It was initially kept in the centre of the church before being moved to a monastery in Northern Italy by the Normans, in 1185. The reliquary of the western aisle holds only the head and other parts of his body, transferred here in 1978. The chapel of St. Efthymios with exceptional murals and mosaics (5th- 9th century AD) is also incorporated into the church, along with trader Loukas Spantounis’ tomb (1481), which is a representative sample of Venetian Renaissance art. Several architectural elements from Roman and Christian buildings have survived, bearing witness to the evolution of sculpture in the 5th and 6th century (See: Capitals) and the arts in general (See: mosaics, 5th-9th century). The mural on the south wall depicts an imperial figure. Scientists, however, have not concluded who this emperor was.

What I can't see

According to tradition, the Christian official Dimitrios was imprisoned, executed and buried here during the Diocletian era. Immediately after the decree on religious tolerance (313 AD), a “lodge” (house of prayer) was built here. About half a century later, Dimitrios’ relics were transferred to the centre of a new basilica, built as an act of gratitude by the province commander, who believed Dimitrios had treated him from illness. After a devastating fire caused by an earthquake, the church was restored. In the late 15th century, it was converted into a mosque (Kasimie Mosque) by the Ottomans, thus restricting the saint’s worship to the north-western section of the baths and changing the church’s decor with Quran verses. Muslims, however, respected and honoured the Orthodox Christian worship of St. Demetriοs, whom they considered a “miracle worker.” With the annexation of Thessaloniki into the Greek state, it was reconverted into a Christian church. St. Dimitrios was considered the city’s patron saint ever since the Byzantine times and the anniversary of his execution attracted Christians from within and outside the empire. Moreover, the mosaics are dedicated to him because it was believed that he protected the city during its siege by the Slavs (7th century).

Info

  • Address: 97 Ag. Dimitriou St.
  • Τηλέφωνο: +30 2310 270008, 260915

Bibliography

Mazower M., (2006), Θεσσαλονίκη. Πόλη των φαντασμάτων, χριστιανοί, μουσουλμάνοι και εβραίοι 1430- 1950, [Salonica. City of ghosts], Athens: Alexandreia Publications

Athanasiou F, Zygomalas D., Koniordos V., Makri E., Steriotou I., (2009), Περίπατοι κληρονομιάς στη Θεσσαλονίκη, [Heritage walks in Thessaloniki], Centre of History of Municipality of Thessaloniki, Greek Society of Environment and Culture, Thessaloniki annex

Anastasiadou Μ., (2008), Θεσσαλονίκη 1830-1912, η μητρόπολη στην εποχή των οθωμανικών μεταρρυθμίσεων, [Thessaloniki 1830-1912, the metropolis in the era of Ottoman reforms] ESTIA

Zafeiris Ch., (1997), Θεσσαλονίκης Εγκόλπιον, ιστορία, πολιτισμός, η πόλη σήμερα, γεύσεις, μουσεία, μνημεία, διαδρομές, [Thessaloniki Handbook, history, culture, the city today, flavours, museums, routes], Athens: Exantas

Kourkoutidou- Nikolaidou E., Tourta A., (1997), Περίπατοι στη Βυζαντινή Θεσσαλονίκη, [Walks in the Byzantine Thessaloniki], Athens: Kapon publications

Theodoridis P., (2013), Θεσσαλονίκη, διήγηση ενός αιώνα, [Thessaloniki, a narration of a century] Thyrathen

Musée Albert-Kahn , (2000), Θεσσαλονίκη, οι τύχες των Βαλκανίων, [Thessaloniki, Balkan’s fortune], Benakis Museum