Dating from the 7th century Agios Dimítrios is the largest church in Greece which following a fire in 1917 had to be rebuilt. The fire destroyed the 7th and 13th century fabric of the basilica but the crypt dating back to the 3rd century and built over a Roman bath remained intact. According to legend the crypt is the site of the imprisonment, torture and murder in 305 AD of the city's patron saint Dimitrios - a Roman soldier who converted to Christianity and was martyred on the orders of Emperor Galerius. Six small mosaics dating from the 5th - 7th century survived the fire and rank among the finest in Greece.
St. Dimitrios with young children
In the crypt there are still relics from when it was a Roman bath house
There has been a church since the 3rd century on the location of the current Agía Sofía. The present structure was erected in the 8th century and based on the design of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In 1205 when the fourth Crusade captured the city it was converted into the cathedral of Thessaloniki. It was then converted to a mosque in 1430 after the capture of Thessaloniki by Ottoman Sultan Murad ll, and finally reconverted to a church during the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912.
A fine Ascension fresco in the dome dating back to the 9th century
The imposing nature of the building is emphasised by its location in a partially sunken garden
Just a short stroll away is the arch of Galerius and Rotunda
In the 4th century Roman emperor Galerius commissioned these two structures as elements of an imperial precinct linked to his palace. The arch emphasised his power and was composed of a masonry core faced with marble sculptural panels celebrating a victory over the Sassanid Persians. Less than half of the arch is preserved. The Rotunda is a massive circular structure that had an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome. Originally built to be a mausoleum for Galerius it became a polytheist temple, a Christian basilica, a Muslim mosque and then again a Christian church. It is now empty with archaeological work being carried out within it. A minaret can be seen which was built when it was used as a mosque.