Agios Dimitrios – Biggest Chruch of Greece

Agios Dimitrios is the biggest Byzantine church of Greece. We were there on 26th Dec morning and being the day after Christmas there was a good crowd, prayers were on and we stood listening to hymns for some time. The stories about this church and the tons of history associated with it urged us make the visit.

 The church is dedicated to Saint Dimitrios who was tortured and put to death for his disgust to idolatry. During 3rd century AD when idolatry practices were still being followed, he secretly got himself baptized. He was the son of a wealthy military commander, the story goes like this… when his father died the king ordered him to chase Christians of Thessaloniki and kill them. Agios Dimitrios refused to follow the orders, so he was jailed and tortured to change his beliefs. Dimitrios was martyred by Galerius, yes the same Galerius whose arch still stands tall in Thessaloniki. Before he died in their hands he distributed all his wealth to the poor and needy. His sacrifice made him a saint!

In 324AD the emperor Constantine the Great ended the prosecution of the Christians and made Christianity the official religion of Byzantine Empire. A small church was built on the place of the martyrdom of Agios Dimitrios. Pilgrims believe His grave to be miraculous. The crypt of the saint can be accessed by a staircase behind the sanctuary. It is believed to be the same site where the saint was killed by the Roman soldiers and buried. This was converted into museum in 1988. I regret having to skip seeing this museum due to lack of time. (The crypt opens at 10.30AM.)

During 629-634AD the church was rebuilt as five-aisled basilica, the same form has continued till today. More history: In 1493, during the Turkish occupation, the church was converted into a mosque. During the period of Ottoman rule the crypt got filled up with earth and forgotten. In 1912, after the city was liberated, it became a Christian church again. Unfortunately in 1917, the church was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt according to the original plans. The crypt was rediscovered after this fire of 1917. The church started to function again in 1949.

Below are some of the pictures of the interiors of the church that I could manage to take without causing any disturbance.

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Roussanou Nunnery, Meteora, Greece
Arch of Galerius, Thessaloniki

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