Thessaloniki’s architecture shaped by history (part I)

Thessalonique has been since its origine at the crossroad of the big commercial roads and its history was both very agitated and very rich. This history left behind a massive and diverse architectural inheritance.

On the whole, the city has 6 architectural orders inherit from its past : the Greek Antiquity, the Roman Antiquity, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman domination, the neoclassical style and the modern one.

Greek and Roman Antiquity : the city has very few vestiges of its Greek antique past. In fact, the Roman domination has occupied and reorganized the city on the Greek foundations, reusing the sale materials (marbles, bricks). At the contrary, the marks of the Roman constructions are abundant : the Roman forum is this in open-air right in the city center with the ruins of the theatre, the arched depot and the numerous colonnades. Likewise the rotunda, which is part of the ancient political center of Thessaloniki (300 AD) is the perfect synthesis byt itself of a part of the city history. The rotunda was at first the circular mausoleum created in the 4th century, destinate to the Galley Empereur. By the next century, the circulara mausoleum was transformed in a church as the rotunda was extended byt the addition of an apse at the Est wing. Then, under the Ottoman era, a mosque. The inside was decorated with golden mosaique whose some of them has survived and can still be seen.

The roman forum

Byzantin era : the era of the Byzantin Empire left to Thessaloniki an important religious inheritance. A large number of churches and chapels scatter the city. Despite of the terrible fire of 1917 which has destroyed 75% of the city, the struggle of the inhabitants and the firemen to protect them for the fire and after the priority to restore them, as for result that this vestige of the past is nowadays almost undamaged. One of them is the Agia Sophia church. On the northern side of the forum, is the Holy Dimitriou basilic built uppon the Therms vestiges where tradition place this place as the prison and the martyr of this saint. There is other more modest construction as Holy Pantheleimon, the Holy Apostles and the Saint Nikolas Orphanos are aslo churches with the Byzantin architecture, noticible at the outside as well as the inside fot heir numerous frescos.

Agia Sofia church

Ottoman era : the Ottoman style is extremly present in Thessaloniki. Numerous monuments are in the city center and a lot of houses in the upper city (the majority of the ottoman style houses of the lower city have been  destroyed in the fire of 1917). So then we also count mosques, hammams or ancient markets. Little by little restored, they are today trannsformed as commercial and cultural sites. The majority of the mosques have lost their minaret after 1912, when Thessaloniki was independent and greek again. Among the most noticible buildings : the Hamza Bey mosques, the Yeni mosque, the Yhudi, Yuni and Bey baths, the ancient Bezetseni market. You can recognize the Ottomans houses of the upper city because of the wooden latice going over the street.

Ottoman’s houses



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