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Ayios Dimitrios (Saint Demetrius - 'Αγιος Δημήτριος)

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath that used to stand there before. A century later, a prefect called Leontios had this small oratory replaced with a larger, three-aisled basilica. The church was repeatedly gutted by fires, and eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629-634. This was the church much as it is today. It was the most important shrine in the city, probably larger that the local cathedral, whose very location is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine to the saint called the ciborium, a hexagonal roofed structure at one side of the nave, made of, or covered with, silver. This had doors, and inside a couch or bed. Also unusually, there were no physical relics of the saint, and the ciborium seems to have operated as a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Iconoclastic policies in 730. These mosaics, depicting St Demetrius with the officials responsible for the restoration (called the founders) or children, represent a rare example of this art surviving from the Dark Age that followed Justinian's death. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heavens for saving the people of Saloniki from a pagan Slavic raid in 612.

Other magnificent mosaics that used to cover the church interior perished either during four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493-1912) or in a great fire that in 1917 destroyed much of the city, including the roof and upper walls of the church.

It took decades to restore the church following the Great Fire of 1917. The excavations, conducted in the 1930s and 1940s, brought to life some interesting items that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church's crypt. The excavations uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath where St. Demetrius had supposedly been held prisoner and later executed. A Roman well was discovered too and it is believed that it's the same well that the soldiers who executed St. Demetrius dropped his body later. The church was finally restored and reconsecrated in 1949.

Ο ναός του Αγ. Δημητρίου χτίστηκε στα ερείπια ρωμαϊκού λουτρού. Ο πρώτος ναός χτίστηκε μετά το 313. Τον 5ο αιώνα ο έπαρχος Λεόντιος έχτισε μεγάλη τρίκλιτη βασιλική, που κάηκε στα 626 - 34. Αμέσως μετά χτίστηκε η πεντάκλιτη βασιλική. Το 1493 μετατράπηκε σε τζαμί. Το 1912 αποδόθηκε πάλι στη χριστιανική λατρεία. Κάηκε στη μεγάλη πυρκαγιά του 1917 και ξαναλειτούργησε το 1949, αφού ολοκληρώθηκε η αναστήλωσή του. Στην κρύπτη του ναού οργανώθηκε η έκθεση αρχαιοτήτων που διασώθηκαν από την πυρκαγιά ή βρέθηκαν στις ανασκαφικές έρευνες. Το μνημείο λειτουργεί σήμερα ως ναός.

Ο ναός του Αγ. Δημητρίου είναι πεντάκλιτη βασιλική με νάρθηκα και εγκάρσιο κλίτος, με κρύπτη κάτω από το ιερό και το εγκάρσιο κλίτος και προσαρτημένο στη νοτιο - ανατολική γωνία της το παρεκκλήσι του Αγ. Ευθυμίου. Από την πυρκαγιά του 1917 διασώθηκαν λείψανα μόνο από τον λαμπρό γλυπτικό και ζωγραφικό (ψηφιδωτά, τοιχογραφίες) διάκοσμο του ναού, που αντιπροσωπεύουν τις διάφορες φάσεις της ιστορίας του.

Μετά την πυρκαγιά του 1917, άρχισαν οι αναστηλωτικές εργασίες που διακόπηκαν το 1938, ξανάρχισαν το 1946 και το μνημείο ξαναλειτούργησε το 1949. Στα πλαίσια των αναστηλωτικών εργασιών έγιναν διάφορες ανασκαφικές έρευνες στο ναό και στην κρύπτη μετά την πυρκαγιά του 1917 και στα 1946 - 1949.

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