Rotunda, one of the most important and imposing monuments of Thessaloniki, with its architectural strength and its wall mosaics of incomparable art and beauty internally, constitutes a special monument, balancing uniquely between the pagan and Christian world. It was founded in the early 4th AD century, probably as a temple of the ancient worship or mausoleum of Constantine located on the axis of the processional route, which connected the triumphal arch of Galerius with the palace complex near the present Navarino Square. The circular and dome roofed emblematic monument has a height of 29.80 m., diameter 24.50 m., width of walls 6.30 m.. Architectural can only be compared to the Pantheon in Rome. Shortly after its construction, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Aghioi Asomatoi or the Archangels. It was Metropolis of Thessaloniki from 1524 to 1591, when it was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman conquerors until the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912. The dedication of the monument to Saint George is due to the neighboring, small, homonymous church. Today the Rotunda, with a history of over 1700 years, is both church and cultural – archaeological monument, where the litany (performed once per month) combined with the tourist visiting and hosting cultural events that match the character and history of the monument.
The building was used as a church for over 1,200 years until the city fell to the Ottomans. In 1590 it was converted into a mosque, called the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi, and a minaret was added to the structure. It was used as a mosque until 1912, when the Greeks captured the city during the Balkan War. Greek Orthodox officials reconsecrated the structure as a church, and they left the minaret. The structure was damaged during an earthquake in 1978 but was subsequently restored. As of 2004, the minaret was still being stabilized with scaffolding. The building is now a historical monument under the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture, although the Greek Orthodox Church has access to the church for various festivities.
The Rotunda is the oldest of Thessaloniki’s churches. Some Greek publications claim it is the oldest Christian church in the world, although there are competitors for that title. It is the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.
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