The Church of the Savior is one of the 15 Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki that were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988.
Archaeological investigation and restoration work following the 1978 earthquakes, in which the church was badly damaged, have brought to light new evidence that has led to a radical review of our knowledge of the structure. The original position of the holy altar has been discovered, and a small lead reliquary that was the church's enkainion. Two inscriptions incised on the reliquary inform us that the church was dedicated to the Virgin. This contradicted the generally accepted view of scholars at the time that the church was to be identified with the monydrion of Kyr Kyros mentioned in a chrysobull of the emperor John V Palaiologos, issued in 1364 and now in the Vatopedi Monastery. Some scholars, indeed, regard this monydrion as the chapel of a major monastery complex, which they identify with the Monastery of Kyr Joel.
Work on the church also revealed its original architectural form, the rare type of the inscribed tetraconch church. The discovery of two graves beneath the floor of the north and south apses, and of others in the narthex and around the church, have led to the soundly based suggestion that the structure was a funerary monument. Finally, investigations in the dome have revealed a coin placed in its structure, on the basis of which the church has been dated to about 1350; more importantly, they have revealed the hitherto unknown wall-paintings in the dome.
The ground plan of the church consists of a square with a tetraconch inscribed within it. The exterior of the sanctuary apse is semihexagonal in form. The narthex, which is appended at the west, was added during work on the church in 1936, replacing an earlier, though not Byzantine, narthex. The nave is covered by an eight-sided dome, relatively tall for the size of the monument, which is articulated by rows of arches and brick half-columns, the typical hallmarks of Palaiologan church-building in Thessaloniki. The base is of rubble masonry, with courses of bricks above the semidomes over the apses, laid entirely with mud. The church was definitely not converted into a mosque during the period of Turkish domination, possibly because of its small size, or because it stood in the Christian district of Panagouda, in the grounds of a private dwelling.
The wall-paintings uncovered in the dome, beneath a thick layer of soot, are arranged in three zones. At the pinnacle of the dome is depicted the figure of Christ, ascending triumphantly in a glory held by angels. His Ascension is watched by the Virgin and the Apostles lower down, and depictions of the sun and moon and personifications of the winds are added, in accordance with the established Byzantine iconography of the subject. Eight prophets are depicted between the windows of the dome, and at its base is unfolded the Divine Liturgy, in the type and image of the Heavenly Liturgy. Thus, though Christ appears in a Theophany, he is flanked not by angels, but by church fathers, deacons, chanters, and the faithful. These wall-paintings are dated to the period 1350-70, and their art is valuable testimony to the hitherto un-known artistic output of Thessaloniki in the middle of this century, revealing through its repertoire the spiritual concerns of the intellectuals of the city.References:
The St Sophia's Cathedral was built between 1045-1050 inside the Novgorod Kremlin (fortress). It is one of the earliest stone structures of northern Russia. Its height is 38 m. Originally it was taller, for during the past nine centuries the lower part of the building became concealed by the two-metre thick cultural layer. The cathedral was built by Prince Vladimir, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, and until the 1130s this principal church of the city also served as the sepulchre of Novgorodian princes. For the Novgorodians, St Sophia became synonymous with their town, the symbol of civic power and independence.
The five-domed church looks simpler but no less impressive than its prototype, the thirteen-domed St Sophia of Kiev. The cathedral exterior is striking in its majesty and epic splendour evoking the memories of Novgorod's glorious past and invincible might. In the 11th century it looked more imposing than now. Its facade represented a gigantic mosaic of huge, coarsely trimmed irregular slabs of flagstone and shell rock. In some places (particularly on the apses), the wall was covered with mortar, smoothly polished, drawn up to imitate courses of brick or of whitestone slabs, and slightly coloured. As a result, the facade was not white, as it is today, but multicoloured. The play of stone, decorative painting and the building materials of various texture enhanced the impression of austere simplicity and introduced a picturesque effect.
The two-storied galleries extend along the building's southern, western and northern sides, with a stair-tower constructed at the north-eastern corner. The cathedral has three entrances - the southern, western and northern, of which the western was the main one intended for ceremonial processions. A gate standing at the entrance is known as the Sigtuna Gate (mid-12th century); according to legend, it was brought from the Swedish town of Sigtuna in 1187. The second name of the gate derives from the town of Magdeburg, where it was made. The two leaves are decorated with biblical and evangelical scenes in cast bronze relief. In the lower left corner there are portraits of the craftsmen who created this superb specimen of medieval Western European bronze-work. An inscription in Latin gives their names, Riquin and Weissmut. The small central figure - judging from an inscription in Slavonic - is a representation of the Russian master craftsman Avraam, who assembled the gate.
There is yet another bronze gate in the cathedral, called the Korsun Gate. Made in the 11th century in Chersonesos, Byzantium, it leads from the southern gallery into the Nativity Side-Chapel. Legend has it that the gate was handed over to Novgorod as a gift of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (c. 978 - 1054).
The interior of the cathedral is as majestic as its exterior. It is divided by huge piers into five aisles, three of which end in altar apses. In the south-western corner, inside the tower, there is a wide spiral in relatively small, modest buildings of the 12th - 16th centuries.