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Thessaloniki - Greece

Published: 12.3.2010
Thessaloniki is the second greatest town of Greece, and its biggest port at the same time. It is a town full of life with big number of historical monuments.


Thessaloniki is a centre of Greece-Macedonia. In past, during 4st century B.C., first impulses for the creation of world empire were created here. Philip of Macedonia, a ruler of this territory, conquested the remaining Greece. His son, Alexander the Great, established extensive empire, which involved the territory, placed along east coast of Mediterranean. However, soon after Alexander´s death, the empire was disintegrated. Macedonia became a Roman province, later belonged to Byzantium, South-Slave tribes passed through, and, finally, the country was dominated by Turks, after expedition of Balkan conquestors, for a period of nerly 500 years. At present, small part of Macedonia belongs to Bulgaria, south area forms a part of Greece, and former Yugoslav section is independent state of Macedonia. Greece Macedonia became a home of one of earliest Christian communities of the Europe. Even Apostle (Missionary) Paul visited this country, and had a correspondence with members of this community. „Anyway, we, who belong to present days, let´s be prosaic, let´s take our faith and love as an armour-plate and a hope for salvation as a helmet!“ he wrote, in connection with warning against alcoholism.

This sentence is quoted in the first from his two letters, addressed to citizens of Thessaloniki, as this town was a target of his visit there between 49-50 A.D. The town, which was relatively young at that time period, changed soon in a capital of Roman province of Macedonia. Thessaloniki was placed on one of most important merchant ways of Roman Empire (Via Egnetia), which let to Byzantion, today´s Istanbul. So, the Christian community, encouraged by Paul´ s visit and his letters, became a starting point of his missionary activity, especially in Balkan. Later, Cyril and Method, Slav Apostles, were sent from here to their Great Moravia mission. They arranged the alphabet of Slavonic language and so created a literary language.

Within rule of Justinian, Byzantion Empire (in 6th century), the town became the second biggest town of East-Roman Empire. The town was besieged by Avars and Gots, and Saratsens managed to dominate and plundered subsequently, and later, the Normans, Venetians and Cross-Knights followed. Anyway, the Ottoman rulers showed their great part of tolerance, as far as the religion was concerned (this fact was similar also in remainding parts of the Empire), so the Christians could practise their faith without any obstacles, despite the fact that they were religion minority (the Christian faith was accepted by one quarter of local inhabitants only). Nevertheless, the Turks were much more numerous minority, and nearly half of inhabitants was formed with Jews. As an evidence, these are „The Apostles´ Acts“, where you find the description of Apostle´s Paul wandering. „They set out the way which led through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia, and arrived to Thessaloniki, where the Jews built their synagogue. Paul came, as usually, to their assembly, and had a speech to them for three days, explained the Holy Scriptures and proved that the Messiah had to suffer a lot and rose from the dead.“ Later, in 1492, 20000 Jews came to Thessaloniki, looking for asylum (shelter) and consequently, thay brought a lot to great culture development of the town.

In 1917, when Thessaloniki belonged to Greece again, destructive fire broke in historical nucleus of the town. The fire destroyed many monuments for three days, and nearly 10000 buildings were totally destructed. The town had to be re-built from the base again. However, the same destiny met many antique and medioeval architectonical monuments, such as, for instance, well-known Thessaloniki churches, St. Sophia Church and St. Dimitri Church. St. Sophia is three naval cupola church placed on quarter grand plan, which was constructed in 6th century.It is powerful Greek-Catholic metropolis church, where there are to be found several galleries, situated one above each other. Imposant Hagia Sophia Church in Constantinople (Istanbul) became an architectonical model for this church. Naturally, the cupola of St. Sophia Church is distincly more flat. Anyway, the elements which distinguished from St. Dimitri Church (this construction had to be erected completely again after 1917), there is great share of preserved building substance. There are, first of all, the mosaics, which are taken for as most beautiful mosaics in Thessaloniki. The ornaments decorate the walls and reach, in magnificient pictures, up to the cupola. They were created when so called iconostas was finished. It was polotical-theological struggle during 8th-9th centuries in Byzantion Empire. This cult did not accepted pictures´ cult as so called idolatry. As a consequence of this fact, that many beautiful works were irresponsibly destroyed, and there was a danger that Byzantion art could disappear. Neverthelss, during the seventh ecumenical counsil held in Nicai in 878, the picture´s cult was declared as a dogma. However, the disputes started again in the course of 9th century, but the „iconoduls“ won finally. So, the art of mosaics did not disappear, so, at present, St.Sophia Church could be proud on several perfect examples. In front of golden backwards, twelve Apostles form, together with Mother of God, a circle, and on lateral part, two angels are standing. Further four angels carry Jesus Christ, throning in rainbow, in on aureola, to the sky. All this is taken place in accordance with words of St. Paul Apostle, writing to citizens of Thessaloniki, as follows: „Our Lor is faithful, he is able to strengthen us, protecting us against bad things at the same time!“

Text: Denisa Arvajová

Translation: ing. Jan Jonáš

Photo: Picasaweb.com



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