|Collection||Byzantine Research Fund|
Baker-Penoyre, Mr John ff.
|Scope and Content||Close view of column in the north arcade. Further annotation in pencil survives at the back of the photograph.|
|Further information||The Byzantine church of Hagios Demetrios remains to the present day one of the most impressive and conspicuous monuments in Thessalonike. It was originally built in the 5th c. at the instigation of Eparch Leontios after his miraculous healing by the saint but was extensively re-built in the 7th c. after the catastrophic fire of 629-634 under the supervision of Bishop John of Thessalonike.
The monument, which supposedly stands upon the tomb of the saint at the site of his martydom, suffered severe damage over the years, the most serious catastrophe being the great fire of 1917 which had consumed much of the city. The church is a five-aisled wooden-roofed basilica with galleries and a narthex. At the east end the sanctuary is surrounded by a high cross-shaped transept. Below there is an extensive lower church. The monument is surrounded by and partly founded on buildings from the Roman period of Thessalonike (the baths, a baptistery and a chapel with burial crypt to the north, an open portico to the south).
The small basilica of Hagios Euthymios was added as a side-chapel to the south of the apse in 1303. The masonry is of rubble reinforced by courses of brick, the arches were constructed in brick. Impressive is the marble decoration of the monument. Marble revetments survive partially in the narthex and the nave, marble opus sectile covered the soffits of the colonnade.
A wide range of splendid capitals which all belong to the original, fifth-century church completes the marble decoration of the monument. Only sections of the original mosaic decoration of the church –mainly votive representations from the 5th to the 7th and 9th c.- have survived. The majority of the wall-paintings which decorated the building were totally destroyed in 1917. The best record of the interior decoration of the church is provided by the drawings of the British Architect W.S. George now part of the BRPF Collection. The church of Hagios Demetrios was a renowned pilgrimage destination.