Fleeing from the Normans and carrying with them the relics of their founder, St-Laumer, some Benedictine monks found shelter in Blois where they decided to build their abbey. the present church, today known as St. Nicolas, but whose real name is St. Laumer, was the former abbey-church.
From 1138 to 1186 these monks built the choir, the transept and the first row of columns of the abbey-church, completing it at the beginning of the next century. During the War of Religion the church was disfigured and the abbey itself destroyed by the Protestants. In the 17th and 18th centuries abbey was rebuilt, it was turned into a hospital at the time of the Revolution.
The speed with which the church was built and the sole addition of the apse chapel in the 14th century give a surprising unity to the whole. On entering the church, one could imagine that it was worked in the same stone by the same workman, for the same majestic and robust characteristics appear in all the different parts of the church. The elegant form of the choir, the crossbar, the majestic pillars of the transept-cross, the statues of people and masks which are to be found along the entire length of the building, the perspective inside the church, where the horizontal lines dominate the verticals; all this adds up to harmonious ensemble, which places the abbey-church of St. Laumer among the most remarkable examples of French medieval architecture.
However, two different periods of construction - about 20 years between them - have left the building with two different, and very marked, architectural styles. It is from the center of the church that the visitor will be able to notice these characteristics the most easily.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.