Hamza Bey


Ottoman Monument
15th century

The Hamza Bey Mosque, also known as Alcazar in the name of the historic cinema which functioned for many years during the 20th century, is located in the center of Thessaloniki at the junction of Egnatia and Venizelou streets. It is an imposing muslim mosque, which is one of the greatest examples of Ottoman architecture in Greece. As we learn from dedicatory inscription, the building’s erection occured in 1467 by Hafsa Hatun, daughter of the Turkish officer Hamza Bey. It was the first mosque built in the city, a few years after its conquest by the Turks (1430). In the first place it was a mesçid, that means a neighborhood mosque without a minaret. It was shaped by a single and a square floor plan prayer hall, which is housed in a dome of 17 meters height and is covered with lead sheets. In the second half of the 16th century, between 1570 and 1592, due to the increase of Muslim population in Thessaloniki, the building was enlarged: two rectangular areas were added on the north and south sides of the original hall, it was constructed in the west a round roofed arcade irregular of trapezoidal floor plan that describes a large patio, while a minaret was raised. In 1620 - according to a second dedicatory inscription – at the building were made from Kapici Mehmed Bey extensive repairs, in order to restore seriously damages resulting probably from an earthquake or a fire.
The Hamza Bey mosque ceased to be used as a mosque after the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912. In the years that followed, it was aggravated by many damages, it underwent several uses and was forced to clumsy interventions, with a natural consequence the significant distortion of its character. In 1917,it suffered from damages from the great fire that destroyed a great part of the downtown, while in 1925 its minaret was demolished. The building hosted refugees, while many of its areas were modified so as to accommodate shops. The biggest, however, contemporary intervention occurred in the patio, which became a cinema, initially open and then closed with the placing of a metal roof. In recent decades, the building was left to abandonment. In 2006, started by the Archaeological Service a program of protection and salvation of the monument, with a view to be given back to Thessaloniki and to refunction as a museum, presenting the findings of excavations carried out in the city on the occasion of the construction of the metro.