Catacombs of Saint John – Ancient Monastery
Right next to the temple of “Agia Sophia” just before the popular “Iktinou” str. you will find a very interesting place that remains hidden despite being in one of the most crowded areas of Thessaloniki. It’s all about a small green oasis in the Center of the city that pleasantly surprises most visitors as it is located nearly 5 meters below the street level and hosts the ancient monastery and the Catacombs of Saint John.
Simply by entering the space you will immediately feel like going back in time because of the several ancient artifacts, while inside the temple the stairs will lead you even deeper, into the ancient catacombs where the history of the place unfolds! Before being used by the first Christians as a religious sanctuary it is believed that the tunnels were part of an extended aqueduct system built by the Romans… But this is not where the story ends!
Many archaeological evidences found all around suggest an even earlier use as a pagan temple devoted to ancient deities.
Catacombs and ancient tunnels
According to several stories heard by the elder locals and researches that followed, it is possible that these catacombs and their connected underground tunnels is only a small part of the extensive subterranean network of tunnels that lies beneath the city for centuries!
Having religious or even defensive importance like the ones located in the Byzantine Walls area, it is highly possible that some of them could actually lead to several significant monuments and buildings of Thessaloniki dated back to its Ottoman, Byzantine or Ancient period of history.
Many of these have been destroyed during the last decades or remain forgotten beneath the surface, while others have been found, properly excavated and restored like the “Crypt” of Agios Dimitrios or the “Cryptoporticus” corridor inside the Roman Forum.
The Underground Crypt
The underground site of the Crypt is definitely one of the most interesting and impressive archaeological areas of Thessaloniki! According to the Christian Tradition, St. Dimitrios was imprisoned here and died in 303 A.D. It is a well-preserved and restored ancient construction that surprises most visitors because of its imposive atmosphere and exhibits.
It remained lost and unknown for many centuries until it was re-surfaced after the destructive fire that devastated the city center in 1917. The entrance is located inside the temple, on the East side of the building right next to the “Templon”.
After your visit to the Crypt, the Catacombs or other similar places you will soon realize that Thessaloniki holds way too many secrets that still wait to be revealed….along with countless myths and legends, every corner of this city has its own story to tell.