Acheiropoiitos

Overview

Era: 
Byzantine
Type: 
Churches
Culture: 
Christian monument
Century: 
8th century
Latitude: 
40.634986
Longitude: 
22.947676

History - Name origin: The Church of Acheiropoiitos is situated in the northern part of Egnatia, on Agia Sophia’s Street. It dates back to the third quarter of the 5th century as well as its decorative mosaics according to an inscription found in the inside surface of the arches of the triple-arched (tribelon) opening of the narthex where there is also a reference to the priest Andreas, who is said to be the priest who represented the Episcope of Thessaloniki in the 4th Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. The accuracy of this chronology is also verified by the bricks that had been used in its construction and which are furthermore similar to those used in the construction of the city’s fortress (447/8 A.D). The temple is referred as Church of Panagia Theotokos until the 14th century, when it was first mentioned in a byzantine act as Acheiropoiitos or Panagia Odigitria. It was built over roman baths. By the Ottoman occupation of the Thessaloniki, the Church of Aheiropoiitos had been transformed into a Muslim mosque known as Eski Tzouma Mosque. In 1930, the temple returns back to the Orthodox Christian community.

Architecture: The temple is a three aisled Hellenistic basilica with galleries and a narthex. In its western side there are remains of the outer narthex or the eastern gallery of the atrium. In its exterior, it is a quadrate building with a large semi crcular arch in the east. In the middle of its southern part, a monumental entrance still remains in good condition, which is said to have been connected to the most important street line of the city, the Byzantine “Boulevard”(today’s Egnatia street). On the same side, east of the entrance still exists a certain baptistery (or martyr) while on the eastern part of the northern nave we can find a chapel of Agia Eirini of the middle byzantine period. The temple’s roof has undergone serious damages, mainly in its central aisle since it is situated in a lower level than it had initially been built while the series of windows that used to luminate its interior are missing. Concerning its interior design, the temple is being divided by two column lines in three naves. In its eastern side, the Holy Altar used to be initially consisted of the eastern arch with a five-lobed window and not with the tri-lobed one that exists nowadays. The barricade reached the third column of the eastern side of the column line. In the western side of the temple, the narthex used to communicate with the central nave via a large three-arched opening. Ιn the northern part of the narthex, we also find a staircase leading to the galleries.

Marble decoration: The magnitude of the temple is intensified by its marble decoration. The floor of the central nave, which still remains in its initial form in good condition, as well as the columns of the column lines are made of prokonnisian marble while the columns of the tri-lobed opening are made of green marble of Thessaly. Another characteristic of the temple is its fabulous Theodosian capitals of the column lines, made of white marble.

Wall decoration: The temple’s mosaic decoration consists of various mosaics in the inside surfaces of the arches of the ground floor's column lines situated on the southern gallery as well as of the arches of the three-arched opening and of the narthex. Their theme is an allegory of Christian paradise. In a golden background, we can see flowers depicted, leaves, grape vines, wreaths, crosses, birds, books, vases, fish etc. The murals that have survived until today in the southern nave, over the column line, date back to the second quarter of the 13th century, representing the Forty Martyrs of Sebastia.