Pay homage to Thessaloniki’s patron saint, the Roman martyr Dimitrios, whose relics are held in this ancient church, which is considered one of the most important in the city.
Saint Demetrios Church, also known as Agios Dimitrios, is a historic 5th-century church that is part of the UNESCO-listed Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki. Learn about the early spread of Christianity in Thessaloniki and marvel at the intricate mosaics, which date back as far as the 8th century.
Though earlier incarnations of Christian churches stood on this site, the earliest being in the 4th century, the current basilica building was built in the 7th century. The church would once have been adorned with centuries-old artworks and features, but many were lost during the devastating fire of 1917. The fire didn’t only bring bad news though. During the restorations that followed, several interesting artifacts were unearthed, many of which are now on show at the museum in the church’s crypt.
As you enter the museum, take a moment to fully appreciate the vast size of the interior. Walk up the central aisle and survey the various attractive architectural and decorative details, such as the columns, arches and religious iconography.
Find out more about Demetrios, Thessaloniki’s patron saint, during a visit to the church. A Roman solider and early Christian convert, Demetrios was killed for his beliefs on the site of what is now the church’s crypt. Descend here to see the reliquary which contains his remains. The crypt also holds other items from the church’s early years, including various sculptures, vessels and column capitals.
Back up in the nave, seek out the 8th-century mosaics on the altar. These are among the few fully surviving examples of Byzantine religious artwork and serve as testaments to the skill and craftsmanship of their creators.
As you explore the church, contemplate its eventful history. During the Ottoman occupation, the church was turned into a mosque and some of the Christian religious imagery was destroyed.
The church is open daily between early morning and late evening. Be aware that Saint Demetrios Church is a fully functioning church so remember to be respectful of worshippers.