The peninsula of San Raineri, on which Forte del Santissimo Salvatore was eventually built, had been inhabited since antiquity, and Greek pottery dating back to the 8th century BC was found at the site. The fort got its name from a monastery and church dedicated to the Holy Saviour, which were built on the peninsula in the Middle Ages. In around 1081, a tower dedicated to Saint Anne was built on the peninsula, and it saw action during the War of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282.
In the 1540s, the fortifications of Messina were being modernized due to fears of the expanding Ottoman Empire. The monastery and other medieval buildings were demolished to make way for Forte del Santissimo Salvatore, but the church and tower were retained and incorporated into the new fort. The fort was completed in 1546 to a design by Antonio Ferramolino, a military engineer from Bergamo. In 1549, the fort's gunpowder magazine blew up, destroying the church in the process.
The fort was captured by local rebels during the 1674 uprising against Spanish rule. After the revolt was suppressed in 1678, the Real Cittadella was built in the centre of the San Ranieri peninsula, close to Forte del Santissimo Salvatore. The fort was damaged during the earthquake of 1783, but was repaired soon afterwards.
During the Sicilian revolution of 1848, the fort and the nearby Cittadella remained in Bourbon hands, and was used to bombarded the city of Messina, which had been captured by rebels. It was eventually captured by Piedmontese forces during the Expedition of the Thousand in 1861.
The fort was again severely damaged in the earthquake of 1908. The walls facing the port of Messina had to be demolished a year later. In 1934, a large statue of Saint Mary, known as the Madonna della Lettera was erected in the fort, on the site of the medieval tower of St. Anne. Some restoration work has been carried out at the fort. It is still military property, being located near the Italian Coast Guard's base in Messina.
The fort has a polygonal shape running along the natural shape of the peninsula. The extremity is occupied by a semi-circular bastion known as Forte Campana. The medieval tower of St. Anne was incorporated into the bastion, and its remains can still be seen.
The fort's land front originally consisted of two bastions linked together by a curtain wall containing the main gate. One of the bastions is still intact, but the other one was demolished after it sustained damage in the earthquake of 1908.
The land front was linked to the semi-circular bastion by two curtain walls, each containing artillery batteries and a small bastion. The wall facing the Strait of Messina is still intact, but the one facing the harbour was demolished after the earthquake.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.