Church of Hagios Demetrios, Thessaloniki

Type: Churches, Mosaics
Date: Sixth to seventh century
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Greece
Description: A 55-meter-long, five-aisle basilica was built in the fifth century on the site of the Roman bath in which Demetrios was allegedly martyred in 306. Reconstructed about 620 after an earthquake, the building suffered a devastating fire in 1917. In the early medieval church, the side aisles, which are lower than the nave, may have been closed off for sick people incubating near the saint; a low wall separates aisles from nave. The galleries over the aisles were also of different heights, perhaps reflecting different functions. The focus of the cult of Hagios Demetrios was not his tomb but, rather, the hexagonal ciborium in the nave. Bodily relics of the saint were never distributed, even when emperors in Constantinople requested them. Important visitors could obtain sweet-smelling earth from near the saint's tomb, probably in a container shaped like the ciborium. In the eleventh century, myron, a fragrant oil, began to flow from the tomb and could be carried away in small ampullae.

Mosaic panels from the sixth and early seventh century survive in Hagios Demetrios. One is on the apse exterior and the others are inside, including several on the piers that divide the nave and sanctuary; mosaics on the east side of the piers would only have been visible to the clergy. Sixth-century votive panels near the original site of the ciborium commemorate miraculous healings and were donated by grateful individuals or their parents. Many of the healed are not identified except as "one whose name God knows." The mosaics in and near the sanctuary are mostly adults, often specifically identified, and probably date to the seventh century.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 3, 6, 8
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Brad Hostetler

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Hagios Demetrios interior Hagios Demetrios templon Hagios Demetrios with children Hagios Demetrios ciborium