Thessaloniki. Byzantine echoes. A journey to Ano Poli and its magnificent Byzantine monuments
The Upper Town of Thessaloniki is the traditional part of the city, which retains, until today and without substantial changes, the basic characteristics of all the historical periods of Thessaloniki and especially the Byzantine one. The glorious Byzantine cultural heritage of Thessaloniki is wonderfully reflected in the picturesque cobbled streets, the well-kept and glorious Byzantine temples and the walls of the Acropolis in Ano Poli, which absolutely justify the pinnacle of power in the city during the years of Byzantium. And it is a fact that in the historical urban fabric of Ano Polis, a spectacular journey takes place in the Byzantine past of the city and the special historical profile of Thessaloniki is revealed, which, although it deservedly won the title of "co-ruling" city in the Byzantine years , remains a real queen in the hearts of all its inhabitants and visitors.
Come, then, to discover together, through charming routes in the picturesque neighborhoods and selected monuments of Ano Polis, the reasons why the area is culturally and historically considered the most interesting area of Thessaloniki, full of unique images and surprises for everyone.
Walls. Triangle Tower and Eptapyrgio
Following the traces of the impressive Byzantine fortification, which are preserved, almost intact, in the area of Ano Poli, the imposing fortification of the Acropolis is revealed to the eyes of every visitor, perfectly integrated, today, in the modern urban fabric of the city. Two large gates, the Portares, lead to the inside of the Acropolis, which, always, served as the last refuge of the inhabitants in cases of conquest of the city. Next to the eastern Portara, which leads outside the walls, is the gate of Empress Anna Palaiologina, giving direct access to the Triangle Tower, also known as the Chain Tower. Impressive and extremely imposing, this cylindrical tower, built at the same time as the White Tower, is located on the most impressive balcony of the city, offering a panorama that takes your breath away and compensates the senses. At its highest point, the Acropolis returns from the fortress Eptapyrgio, the famous Genti Koule, a monumental complex of the Palaeologan era, consisting of the fortified enclosure with ten towers. Memories of recent Greek history are awakened in the impregnable fortress of Thessaloniki, as the monument, in its long history, was transformed, among other things, into a place of imprisonment and concentration of political prisoners, to later acquire the archaeological and historical status, which today, they highlight it as the top historical attraction of the city.
Nearby from the Trigoni tower is the famous patriarchal monastery of Vlatada, one of the most famous and recognizable monuments of Thessaloniki. The monastery, founded in the 14th century and, to this day, retains its patriarchal privileges, is a true oasis of greenery in Ano Poli and an insurmountable place of spiritual contemplation, which leaves no one unmoved. Built in a highly privileged location with amazing views of the city and the Thermaic Gulf, Tsaous Monastir, as the monastery was called during the Turkish occupation, today presents its invaluable ecclesiastical treasures, as expressed through the stunning murals and icons, which adorn the katholikon of the temple of the Transfiguration of the Lord, works all of high artistic quality and value. The small zoo with the birds of paradise and the Patriarchal Foundation for the Study and Research of Byzantine History, housed in the courtyard of the monastery, ideally complement the profile of a spiritual center of the highest value for the religious and spiritual life of the city.
Latomou Monastery - Saint David
Through narrow and labyrinthine cobbled streets, stone stairs and flowery picturesque squares of Ano Polis, close to the only Vlatada, the visitor is led to the monastery of Latomou or, in other words, to Saint David. Hidden, literally, from the surrounding houses, which surround the brilliant Byzantine monument, the monastery, which owes its name to the marble quarries that existed in the area in the past, is a true jewel of the Byzantine history of Thessaloniki and a monument, which arouses global interest, for the amazing mosaic that adorns its interior. The Vision of Ezekiel, as this particular mosaic is known in Byzantine art, symbolizes the greatness of God, presenting for the first and only time the figure of Jesus, as a rude teenager, in the type of the corresponding ancient Greek statues of classical beauty. Following the precepts of Byzantine art, a multitude of symbolisms, in combination with the bright, exquisite colors of the mosaics, masterfully convey the image of Paradise and convey in a completely understandable way, the greatest lessons of the Orthodox Christian faith. The frescoes of high aesthetics, which complement the interior decoration of the temple, intensify the suggestiveness and the feeling of immersion that everyone submits when they enter the interior of the small temple, while the well-kept flower garden, with the stunning view to the city, completes a unprecedented experience of spiritual mysticism.
Saint Nicholas Orphan
The journey in the rich Byzantine tradition and history in Ano Poli of Thessaloniki continues with the visit to another temple of special beauty and importance, Agios Nikolaos the Orphan. The small and unpretentious church, dedicated to the patron saint of orphans, is a real museum of brilliant Byzantine palaeo-painting, as it retains all its rich illustrations inside. The impressive pictorial iconographic program of the church is divided into zones and reveals that it is the work of an inspired artist. Equally impressive are the architectural members, columns and capitals, which adorn the interior of the church, while the green and shady courtyard of the church, undoubtedly intensifies the character of the monument, as a true sanctuary of body and soul.