Agios Dimitrios Church in Thessaloniki
The church was built in the mid 5th century AD, at the location where St. Demetrius martyred and is one of the most important monuments of Thessaloniki, a jewel of historical, architectural and religious value. The five-aisled basilica with vertical aisle, double lofts for women and long double rows with columns, was destroyed twice by fire, in the 7th century and in 1917 (August 5-6). Shortly after the fall of Constantinople, it was turned into a mosque by the Turkish conquerors until 1912.
The devastating fire of 1917 destroyed the church almost entirely. After the total restoration of the damages with extensive works that lasted until 1948 the church operates regularly and is an important monument of art not only for Thessaloniki but for the entire Christianity. When visitors enter the temple they face the icon of the Virgin Mary of Jerusalem (a copy of the icon is at the tomb of the Virgin Mary in Gethsemane). Beside it is an icon dating from 1948 which represents St. Demetrius praying and welcoming a pilgrim.
In the northwestern part of the church, there is a wall painting depicting the Crucifixion dating from the 11th c. Inside the church, there is a shrine with the relics of St. Gregory and the grave of a pious Christian, Lukas Spandounis (buried in 1481), who paid extremely high taxes to the Turks in order to keep the church open to the faithful Christians of Thessaloniki. The church is also decorated with very significant mosaics, most of them dating from the 5th and up to the 7th c. which represent the great art of the time and maintain their color vibrancy.
The wall paintings next to the mosaics are of equally remarkable value as well as the sculptures of the temple, most important of which are the columns that divide the church into five aisles. In the middle of the church, there is a marble ciborium, which replaced the original hexagonal ciborium that kept the relics of St. Demetrius, which was destroyed in 904 A.D. during a raid by the Saracens in 904m.Ch. The spot of the new ciborium with the relics of the Saint, is the holiest part of the temple, a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians from all around the world. https://www.agdimitriosthes.gr/