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Thessaloniki offers many religious attractions among which are the abundant Byzantine churches found in the upper town and the wider region. Visitors have an opportunity to admire a thousand years of unique architecture and well-preserved monuments.
One of the closest churches to the town that still stands proudly to this day is Agia Sofia, the largest and most famous Byzantine church in Thessaloniki. It was built in the 8th century over the ruins of a paleo-Christian church that was destroyed from the earthquake. It used to be a Turkish mosque. Along with other churches from Istanbul, Agia Sofia represents the Byzantine architecture.
The church of Agios Dimitrios lies in the heart of the old town, on the homonymous street. It was initially a small Byzantine church built over the ruins of a Roman spa. Bishop Ioannis founded the five-aisled basilica and between 1493 and 1912 it was used as a Turkish mosque. In 1917, the church was entirely burned out and in 1949 it was completely renovated. Today it is one of the most famous pilgrimages in Greece and the patron saint of the town.
One of the most valuable examples of Byzantine architecture is the church of Panagia Chalkeon dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was founded in 1208 at the center of the town, near the ancient agora. It is well decorated with carved marble and well-preserved frescoes.
The 5th-century church of Panagia Achiropoitos is one of the best surviving monuments that exist in the city of Thessaloniki. It was the first Orthodox Church to be converted into a Turkish mosque. It hosts many beautiful frescoes from the 13th century and is open to the public.
The 14th century Church of Agios Nikolaos Orphanos is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and visitors are impressed by the surrounding environment and its well-decorated interior. Nearby is the monastery of Vlatadon, the only surviving monastery from the Byzantine era. It offers a breathtaking view to the entire town of Thessaloniki. Other churches in the town of Thessaloniki are Agios Panteleimonas, Agios Athanasios, Agios Antonios, and Agia Ekaterini.
The church of Agios Dimitrios(Saint Demetrius) is the most famous church in Thessaloniki. This is the patron saint of the town and its celebration on October 26th is a local holiday. This church dates back to the Byzantine Times and it was built on the exact location where Saint Demetrius martyred. In fact, the basement of the church is the place where the saint was tortured for his faith and died.
This beautiful 14th-century Byzantine church was designed on a cruciform ground plan, with five domes and elaborately patterned brickwork.