Lefkos Pyrgos

Overview

Era: 
Post-Byzantine
Culture: 
Ottoman Monument
Century: 
15th century
Latitude: 
40.626459
Longitude: 
22.948395

The White Tower, indubitably the monument - symbol of Thessaloniki, is located in Thessaloniki’s quay, at the junction of Nikis Boulevard, Pavlou Mela and Ethnikis Amynis Streets. The exact date of its construction is not known, but it is believed to have been built by the end of the 15th century, after the city’s occupation by the Turks (1430). The edifice had been built at the point where the eastern part of the city’s fortress merged with the southern, while it replaced an older byzantine tower that existed in the same position.
The White Tower is a cylindrical construction of 33.9 m. high with a diameter of 22.7 m. It disposes a ground floor and six floors that communicate with each other by an interior staircase of 120 m. in total. A large, circular room is being developed in the center of each floor, while there can be found scattered, other smaller rooms, most of them quadrilateral. In the last floor, an open circular gallery is being formed just on the perimeter of the central room, which offers a magnificent panoramic view of Thessaloniki as well as of the sea. All around the building, it used to exist a low octagonal precinct, reinforced by three turrets; nevertheless, this construction had been demolished in the beginning of the 20th century.
During its long history, the White Tower received many different names and was destined for different uses. It was originally called Tower of the Lion, later on Fortress of Kalamaria while it has been referred to, from time to time, as Tower of the Janissaries, Tower of Blood and Tower of Martyr. The current name of the monument owes its existence to the fact that a prisoner, by the end of the 19th century, had painted the outside of the Tower white using amiant, in order to be granted his freedom. The construction had defensive functions, as it constituted the southeastern tower of the city’s fortification and served as a place for military quarters. Additionally, it had been used as a prison for long-term convicts and condemned to death, and was also a place for torture; what is more, prisoners had been often executed in its battlements, painting its facade with blood. During the 20th century, the White Tower served as a transfer center, a depository of antiquities, a shelter for refugees, a military base, a military emplacement during the Second World War occupation, a sea scouts’ base as well as a laboratory for meteorology. From 1983 to 1985, the Archaeological Service effectuated serious conservation works, reconstructions and restorations, when it was later transformed into a gallery for cultural events, hosting various expositions. From 2008 and on, the monument has been functioning as a museum, hosting a permanent exposition dedicated to the history of Thessaloniki.