The Paleo - Christian temple of Agia Sophia is one of the most impressive Byzantine churches of Thessaloniki. Located in the center of the city as well, it is a very beautiful “Domed Basilica” style temple with an imposing architecture, beautiful wall paintings and elaborate mosaics. Having a 1600 years old history, it can easily be considered one of the most important religious sites in Macedonia.
The earliest written reference about the structure goes back to 795 A.D., while we can safely assume due to archaeological evidence that another Christian temple existed there, until the destructive earthquake of 620 A.D.
An architectural masterpiece in the center of Thessaloniki
In terms of religious art, an interesting period is the one including the dark years of the Iconoclastic wars. These wars revealed the deep social, religious and financial problems within the Byzantine society during the troubled 8th century A.D.
The majority of the wall paintings are dated back to 11th century A.D., while the sculptural decoration of the temple was finalized after several phases.
After the Fourth Crusade in 1205 the structure was used as a cathedral by the crusaders, while during the Ottoman invasion in 1430 the church was converted into a mosque. It remained a mosque, until the city’s liberation in 1912.
The temple of Agia Sofia is one of several city’s monuments included as a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO list, in 1988.
Like several other monuments of the city, the temple was significantly damaged because of the 1917 fire and was afterwards gradually restored. The restoration of the dome was finally completed in 1980.
Round the plaza we can find various worth seeing places, whether you are interested in shopping, having a drink, or just enjoying your coffee. Some of the city’s famous shopping streets are within a small walkable distance from Agia Sofia square.
Heading west, you will discover the city’s central plaza of “Aristotelous”, a place surrounded by interesting buildings with beautiful architecture and one of the favorite destinations for the majority of the local residents.
Address: Agia Sofia Sq., Thessaloniki, (City Center) Greece
Celebration: September 17
Rules: No shorts or sleeveless shirts
Official Website: http://www.agiasofia.info/