December 12, 2007

Hagia Sophia (Thessaloniki)

Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
Church of Agia Sophia
UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Hagia Sophia
State Party Flag of Greece Greece
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 456
Region Europe and North America
Coordinates 40°37′N 22°56′E / 40.617, 22.933
Inscription History
Inscription 1988 (12th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία; Holy Wisdom) in Thessaloniki, Greece, is one of the oldest churches in that city still standing today.


Already in the 3th century, there was a church on the location of the current Hagia Sophia. In the 8th century, the present structure was erected, based on the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the present-day Istanbul, Turkey. In 1205, when the Fourth Crusade captured the city, the Hagia Sophia was converted into the cathedral of Thessaloniki, which it remained after the city was returned to Byzantine Empire in 1246. After the capture of Thessaloniki by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II on 29 March 1430, the church was converted into a mosque [1].

Its ground plan is that of a domed Greek cross basilica. Together with the Gül and the Kalenderhane Mosques in Istanbul and the destroyed Church of the Dormition ("Koimesis") in Nicaea, it represents one of the main architectural examples of this type, typical of the Byzantine middle period [2].

In the Iconoclastic era the apse of the church was embellished with plain gold mosaics with only one great cross, similarly to the Hagia Irene in Constantinople and the Church of the Dormition in Nicaea. The cross was substituted with the image of the Theotokos in 787-797 after the victory of the Iconodules. The mosaic in the dome now represents the Ascension of Jesus Christ with the inscription from Acts 1:11 "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?". The dome is ringed by the figures of all Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary and two angels.

Much of the interior decoration was plastered over after the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, and the dome was restored in 1980 [3].

The Hagia Sophia is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

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