Vrejlev Priory was founded as a daughter house by canons from Børglum Abbey about 1165. It was small and built out of granite blocks. After a catastrophic fire in 1200 which destroyed the entire premises, it was decided to rebuild. 12 residential cells were built into the new north range for the Premonstratensian nuns who were to live in the rebuilt priory. Another range contained the refectory and cellars, and a third range housed lay sisters, usually unmarried young women or widows whose families paid for the privilege of living alongside the nuns. A cloister completed the four-sided complex.
After the fire in 1200, the church was expanded into a three aisled Romanesque structure built of less expensive brick. It was remodelled in 1400 to form a church with two aisles in the Gothic style by removing the outside nave, leaving the church asymmetrical in form. The existing tower was added and the bell hung, which was cast by P.H.P in 1400 and is still rung in the tower today.
The priory and nuns were led by the prioress, while the provost, or prior, who was often a layman and local nobleman, acted for them in secular matters. Some priors lived at Børglum Abbey and were monks, but served the same purpose.
Over time the priory came into possession of several farms and other income properties, though it was by no means wealthy. The rents helped sustain the priory and its works.
Vrejlev Priory fared badly in the 1520s and 1530s during the Danish Reformation. It had been necessary for Vrejlev to be taken under the protection of Bishop Stygge Krumpen in the reign of Frederick I because it could not sustain itself. The priory was occupied by rebels under Skipper Clement in his short-lived rebellion of 1534 and given to Claus IversenDyer. When Christian III's army crushed the revolt later that year, the priory fell to the crown, which appointed a bailiff to secularize it. The priory church became the parish church of Vrejlev. The nuns were permitted to remain for a time, but the cost of maintaining them there was prohibitive, and the former nuns eventually moved or married.
The estate was given to the nobleman Jens Bille in 1575. After 1609 it passed to a succession of noble families who remodelled the conventual buildings for use as a manor houseand estate buildings. The existing buildings, still called Vrejlev Kloster, incorporate two of the conventual ranges which have survived to modern times; the rest has been demolished.
The church served as the local parish church but was also the family church for the local resident nobles, and so was continuously repaired, embellished, and stocked with fine church furniture. There was a raised enclosure to separate the nobles and their guests from the rest of the congregation that was only removed in 1864, when the church became an ordinary parish church for the local community.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.