Taxiarhes

Overview

Era: 
Byzantine
Type: 
Churches
Culture: 
Christian monument
Century: 
14th century
Latitude: 
40.639954
Longitude: 
22.954476

In the northeastern part of Ano Polis of Thessaloniki, on Theotokopoulou Street, just before its intersection with Acropolis street, is situated the church of Taxiarhes, the construction of which is placed in the second half of the 14th century. This is a building consisting of a central wooden-roofed hall, surrounded on the north, west and south side of an ambulatory. The ambulatory, a characteristic feature of church architecture of the city in the 14th century, is covered with monorichtes roofs, it ends in east in two square apartments-chapels, and in its original form it would be open to the west and south side. The exterior surfaces of the building have the usual plastic configuration of the post-byzantine churches of Thessaloniki, with successive blind arches, stone-built pillars and rack strips, simple or double. It is noteworthy that on the underground of the church there is shaped a crypt, which forms arcades. On the walls of arcades there are opening three-sided areas that served as tombs, probably of monks, which leads to the conclusion that the monument was at first place the cathedral of an unknown today small Byzantine monastery. From the painted decoration of the church there are saved only two paintings, in the east and west pediment, which date back to the second half of the 14th century and depict, respectively, Ascension of Christ and Pentecost.
After the conquest of Thessaloniki by the Turks in 1430, the church of Taxiarhes was converted from Gazi Hüseyin Bey into a muslim mosque and it acquired a minaret, which had a double balcony. Because of this unique architectural element of the minaret, during the period of Turkish occupation the building was called «İki Şerife mosque", that means "mosque with two balconies." According to the popular belief and local tradition, the two balconies symbolize the two great Taxiarches, Michael and Gabriel. The long use of the monument as a muslim mosque caused many distortions to the building, while there were later additions: in order to broaden the church, in recent years there was built a narrow and closed narthex on the west side, while on the south there was configurated a new nave.