Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Holy Wisdom Salonica 1.jpg
The Hagia Sophia
Country Greece
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 456
UNESCO region Europe and North America
Coordinates 40°37′58″N 22°56′49″E / 40.632865°N 22.946818°E / 40.632865; 22.946818
Inscription history
Inscription 1988 (12th Session)

The Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία, Holy Wisdom) in Thessaloniki, Greece, is one of the oldest churches in that city still standing today. It is one of several monuments in Thessaloniki included as a World Heritage Site on the UNESCO list.


Since the 3rd century, there was a church in the location of the current Hagia Sophia. In the 8th century, the present structure was erected, based on the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey). In 1205, when the Fourth Crusade captured the city, the Hagia Sophia was converted into the cathedral of Thessaloniki, which it remained after the city was returned to the Byzantine Empire in 1246. After the capture of Thessaloniki by the Ottoman Sultan Murad II on 29 March 1430, the church was converted into a mosque.[1] It was reconverted to a church upon the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912.

Its ground plan is that of a domed Greek cross basilica. Together with the Gül and the Kalenderhane Mosques in Istanbul and the destroyed Church of the Dormition in Nicaea, it represents one of the main architectural examples of this type, typical of the Byzantine middle period.[2]

Interior of Hagia Sophia, here shown prepared for a wedding.

In the Iconoclastic era, the apse of the church was embellished with plain gold mosaics with only one great cross, similarly to the Hagia Irene in Constantinople and the Church of the Dormition in Nicaea. The cross was substituted with the image of the Theotokos (God-bearer, or Mary) in 787-797 after the victory of the Iconodules. The mosaic in the dome now represents the Ascension of Jesus Christ with the inscription from Acts 1:11 "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?". The dome is ringed by the figures of all Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary and two angels.

Much of the interior decoration was plastered over after the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917. The dome was not restored until 1980.[3]


  1. ^ UNESCO, Advisory Body Evaluation, World Heritage List No. 456
  2. ^ Krautheimer,317
  3. ^ Ayía Sofía


  • Krautheimer, Richard (1986). Architettura paleocristiana e bizantina (in Italian). Einaudi, Turin. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°37′58.24″N 22°56′49.54″E / 40.6328444°N 22.9470944°E / 40.6328444; 22.9470944