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.

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Founded: 629-634 AD
Category: Religious sites in Greece

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en.wikipedia.org

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User Reviews

Anthony Manmohan (5 months ago)
It is worth seeing for its history and old roman bath in the crypt. Old french style toilets except the didabled toilet but with no toilet paper in the garden along with grapevines.
Sandrien Verloy (6 months ago)
Beautiful church. A must see
Asiyah Noemi Koso (7 months ago)
Church of Agios Dimitrios is a beautiful monumental church, located in the very heart of Thessaloniki. The church is beautiful both from the outside and from the inside. Inside it is richly decorated with spectacular Byzantine mosaics. The history of the church and Saint Demetrius is extremely interesting. Saint Demetrius or Agios Dimitrios, (208 AD-303 AD) is the patron saint of Thessaloniki. He was the son of a wealthy military commander of Thessaloniki and received a good education as a child. He also joined the army and became an officer. When he was young, he decided to secretly baptized Christian, something forbidden those years. When his father died, the Roman Emperor Maximian ordered him to chase and kill the Christians of Thessaloniki. Dimitrios refused to do so and revealed his faith. He was asked to change his religious beliefs but refused once again and expressed his disgust for idolatry. Therefore, he was put to prison, was tortured and died for his God. Before he died, he donated all his wealth to the poor. His bravery and sacrifice made him an Orthodox saint. Later years people built a small church on the martyrdom of Agios Dimitrios. Over the years the church has become magnificent and significant. The Ottomans made Agios Dimitrios a mosque, and plastered over frescoes that were again revealed after the 1913 Greek reconquest. While the city's devastating fire of 1917 was very damaging, five 8th-century mosaics survive, spanning the altar. The martyrdom site is now an underground crypt. The Crypt and underground site is especially interesting place. Saint Dimitrios relics occupy a silver reliquary inside. His grave was said to be miraculous and thousands of pilgrims were coming every year to pay their honors. What to say, magnificent.
Mirosław Siemieniuk (7 months ago)
The most beautiful Orthodox church I have ever been to.
LouannaNEGUT Gmail (10 months ago)
The church of The patron Saint of Thessaloniki ; My grandfather was named after this saint ; My time spent there was in his honour. Holy place exquisite construction building .
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