Church of Agia Sofia, Thessaloniki, Greece

The first to top the list of ‘what to see?’ in Thessaloniki are the Byzantine Churches. This post is on 8th century Church of Agia Sofia.

Byzantine Architecture

But before that a little bit about Byzantine architecture: It is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Later Roman or Eastern Roman Empire. Buildings have increased geometric complexity compared to the basilicas that existed then. Brick and plaster were used in addition to stone in the decoration of important public structures. Mosaics replaced carved decoration; we did see colorful mosaic works. The complex domes rested upon massive piers, and windows filtered light through thin sheets of alabaster to softly illuminate interiors (check one of my pics where I captured light streaming in.). Most of the surviving structures are sacred in nature, with secular buildings mostly known only through contemporaneous descriptions. This kind of architecture flourished in countries like Bulgaria, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, and other Orthodox countries.


Church of Agia Sofia

Church of Agia Sofia, don’t mistake it with its namesake at Turkey. This one is a much smaller one. This church is one of the 17 UNESCO Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki. Church of Agia Sofia was built over the ruins of a Roman building and an early Christian basilica. In 1585 it was converted to mosque by the Turks. During 1907 10 this was reconstructed and dedicated for Christian worship in 1912. Wars also contributed to this beautiful monument’s damage. An Italian air raid damaged its elegant Turkish portico in 1941. Nature too played a devastating role and it was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1978.

The church doesn’t have an attractive exterior, but the interiors can leave you stunned. Some portions of the old mosaics have survived all these centuries inspite of all damages outsides.

It was morning of Dec 26th, 2014, as expected there was a good crowd of people. We waited for sometime, few other tourists like us too were there waiting for the service and prayers to be over. None of us wanted to disturb the solemn atmosphere for sure. Once majority of the crowd dispersed we took pictures.



Apostles divided by trees.


Christ seated on a rainbow throne.


The arches on the west wall bear fragments of 11th century frescoes.


The mosaic work on the dome depicts ascension It was magical seeing the light streaming in.



The Chandelier in Agia Sophia, Thessaloniki
Drive from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece

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