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.

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Apostles divided by trees.

 

Christ seated on a rainbow throne.

 

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

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

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40 Responses

  1. Sylvia K says:

    You are right, Indrani, the inside of the church is awesome indeed! Breathtaking and so are your captures for the day!!

  2. DIMI says:

    Hello Indrani!!
    I have'nt visit Thessaloniki!!It's a beautiful city and port!The Church of Agia Sofia is so impressive!Your pictures are gorgeous!Thank you for sharing and thank you for your wishes!Have a happy week!
    Dimi…

  3. TexWisGirl says:

    imposing structure, but wonderful art!

  4. Hilary says:

    That is a stunning church.. particularly on the inside. You must have been in awe standing there.

  5. Cloudia says:

    Thank you for edifying us, Indrani

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    ComfortSpiral
    <3

  6. These interiors hold such mysteries. wonderful shots.

  7. ladyfi says:

    Wow – the tiled interior is gorgeous!

  8. Gattina says:

    Interesting post and beautiful pictures !

  9. eileeninmd says:

    Hello Indrani, what a pretty church. The inside is just beautiful. Gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing, have a happy week!

  10. Glad to know about this church. Wonderful captures, Indrani.

  11. A good Narrative… Nice Photos!

  12. Renuka says:

    Great photos! I am intrigued to visit Greece now. (By the way, did you intend to write 'Grrece' in the title?)

  13. Many thanks for the lovely comments friends.
    Renuka, thank you for the correction. 🙂

  14. The Church is indeed beautiful.Loved the marvellous frescos ..I was not aware that such a colorful palette of bright yellows, lemons and reds existed in ancient Greece ! Somehow I always limited them to shades of blues and greens..
    And yes, I noticed that pic with light streaming in:)
    And I also liked its exterior as presented in the second and the third pic. Are those ropes running down from a tower bellropes ?

  15. Good observation there Kokila. I am not sure what those ropes are for.
    Thank you for the comment.

  16. Beautiful art form Indrani.

  17. Loved the interiors and the pics…The simple elegance matched with the pompous interior true mark of character

  18. Al says:

    Those are amazing interiors – I wouldn't have guessed it from the outside.

  19. Beautiful Indeed Indrani 🙂 breathtaking pictures!

    Look forward to more such great posts!

    -Nikshep

  20. Awesome. How do they maintain all this for centuries? TFS

  21. Beautiful captures Indrani…would love to visit them sometime…

  22. Beautiful indeed . But Indrani ji , I have a question here , most of the castles, buildings are of same architect style in Europe ? is it Roman architect ? If you will focus on Indian style it is diiferent according to Region , it may be different in Northern or in Southern part of India. But in Europian countries , it is almost same?

  23. Lovely, the artistic look of church is so impressive and well captured

  24. Hi Yogi Saraswat, Byzantine architecture comes in the category of ancient architecture. Roman architecture belongs to medieval period. The buildings of Europe that you have seen may belong to this medieval period, hence they look similar.
    I hope this satisfies. You can also have a look at the link I gave.

  25. The architecture looks different for a church and murals inside are so gorgeous! Nice photos!

  26. Reader Wil says:

    You are right : the interior is stunning . Amazing that it survived wars and earthquakes.
    I have seen many beautiful churches in Greece, but this one is magnificent. Thanks for taking the trouble to share it with us. Have a great week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  27. So beautiful photos

  28. Mridula says:

    The picture of the interior in green is so beautiful.

  29. D. Prabhu says:

    Beautiful Photos 🙂

  30. Lovely post. I had visited Rome recently and see that the churches there are very different. The architecture, the imagery, and the overall feel! Good to see a different picture from another era.

  31. Thanks for the virtual tour of this place Indrani. Very nice pictures.

  32. kostas says:

    Very interesting presentation of my hometown!
    Thank you for sharing.

  33. A Byzantine church! Wow! I am actually holding my copy of Historic Costumes book and comparing the costumes!! I guess, this church belongs to early Byzantine period as it depicts the stola/chiton and palla instead of tunics. How exciting is that!

  34. Thanks, Indrani! I am refreshing my knowledge about historic costumes only because of you!

  35. Alka Gurha says:

    Amazing craftsmanship and equally amazing captures.

  36. Natasha says:

    I am going to Greece soon with my family. Seeing these pictures is great it gives me a good idea what I can expect when we go there. Beautiful buildings with such history, thanks for sharing

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