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Church of Our Lady Achiropiitos

The Church of Our Lady Achiropiitos is the only surviving early-Christian basilica in the city and the entire Eastern Mediterranean in its original 5th century AD form.

  1. Modern and Contemporary era (1912 - )

    1912 It was the first Byzantine Museum in Greece.

    1914 Refugees from Thrace were housed. A year later, it housed Serb refugees.

    1922 Refugees from Asia Minor settled.

    1930 Reopened as a Christian church.

    1962 It was designated by the Greek state as a protected monument.

    1978 It suffered severe damage from a strong earthquake. Restoration began immediately.

    1988 It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  2. Ottoman era (1453- 1912)

    1673 Visited by Sultan Mohammed IV.

    1907 The Ottoman government began the restoration of the church in its Byzantine form, removing all Turkish elements ("stylistic revival").

  3. Byzantine era (331 AC- 1453)

    It was constructed in the middle of the second half of the 5th century AD, evidenced by the narthex’s mosaic inscription "Andreas", (a representative of the church of Thessaloniki at the time) and by the church’s sculptures.

    1345 Here the Zealots were slaughtered by the elite of the city.

  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

This is the only surviving early-Christian basilica in the city and the entire Eastern Mediterranean, which is preserved in its original 5th century AD form. It is also the first church of the city that was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman period, commemorated by an inscription in Arabic on one of its columns: “Sultan Murat Khan conquered the city of Thessaloniki, year (Egira) 883 ”, ie in 1430. Achiropiitos (=miraculous) has a wooden roof. Its aisles are separated by marble colonnades, which lead to the sanctuary. The central aisle is 14.2 metres long and the church’s dimensions are 52 x 31m. At each end, one can see the baptistery and the post-Byzantine chapel of Saint Irene. The baptistery is today used as a chapel of Saint Paraskevi. Only some mosaics of the interior arches of the ground floor and the upper floor, full of floral, geometric and religious motifs, survive. The only preserved mosaics are those of the internal surfaces of the colonnades, which are full of decorative and religious motifs. The artistic value of these mosaics confirms the existence of significant artistic workshops in the city during that time. Most of the frescoes were destroyed when it was converted into a mosque. Only a few figures of military saits from the Frankish Era (around 1200- 1225) have been preserved in good condition on the south wall. Parts of other frescoes are also preserved in the chapel of Saint Irene and in the drums of the southern propylon of the basilica, but in a rather bad condition.

What I can't see

The church was built on top of Roman baths and was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was first recorded with the name “Our Lady Achiropiitos” in a 1320 document. The name “Achiropiitos” comes from the icon of the Virgin Achiropiitos, which was believed it was created by a miracle. During the Ottoman Era, this was the official Turkish mosque and was called “Eski Mosque” or “Cuma”. Christians referred to it as the church of the Great Lady or Agia (=Saint) Paraskevi. During World War I, the church hosted refugee families and later reopened as a Christian church.


  • Address: 56 Agias Sophias St.


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


Markopoulou D., Karagiannidou I. (2014) Ναός της Παναγίας Αχειροποιήτου. Διατήρηση της μνήμης και της ύλης. [Church of Our Lady Achiropiitos. Preservation of memory and matter], Thessaloniki: Ziti


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Raptis K. (2016) Αχειροποίητος Θεσσαλονίκης. Αρχιτεκτονική και Γλυπτός Διάκοσμος, )[Achiropiitos of Thessaloniki. Architecture and sculptural decoration] Ph.D., v.1 & 2. A.U.Th.


Trakosopoulou Tzimou K., (2015), Η μέριμνα για τα μνημεία στη νεότερη Θεσσαλονίκη: Αντιλήψεις και πρακτικές (19ος– 20ος αιώνας), [Caring for monuments in modern Thessaloniki: Perceptions and practices (19th-20th century)] in Kairidis D. (2015), (επ), Θεσσαλονίκη, μια πόλη σε μετάβαση, 1912- 2012, [Thessaloniki, a city in transition, 1912-2012], OFF, PEEV, Νavarino Network, Epikentro, p. 244- 255


Tsaktsira L, Papanthimou K., Mantziou G., Kalogirou N., (2014), Θεσσαλονίκη, η πόλη και τα μνημεία της, [Thessaloniki, the city and its monuments], Thessaloniki: Malliaris Pedia