Salonika

About the Port

Salonika had become an important metropolis by the Roman period and became the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430, and passed from the Ottoman Empire to Greece on 8 November 1912 towards the end of The First Balkan War.

Salonika makes a popular cruise destination as it is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. Sadly most of the old centre of the city was destroyed in the Great Thessaloniki Fire which started accidentally on 18 August 1917 leaving 27,000 people homeless but there are still many sights to see.

By 2019 Salonika had become the second largest city in Greece with a population of over 1 million. It is known officially as Thessaloniki but also as Thessalonica, Salonica, or Salonika. I will keep to Salonika in this article in keeping with the various images in the album.

Gythion
Salonika - Google Earth [7]


During WW1 a large Allied Expeditionary Force set up a base at Salonika to form the Macedonian or Salonika Front. My grandfather Reginald Arthur Watson served there as a Sergeant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery and caught malaria which recurred for at least 40 years afterwards. I am very proud of him so have included below a portrait taken at what appears to be a makeshift studio at Salonika in 1919, and a photo of his medals which I have just had cleaned and remounted.

R.A.Watson R.A.Watson
R.A. Watson (Snr) on right and his medals for service during the Salonika campaign [8]

Arrival and Departure

Moldavia arrived in Salonika today Monday 10 August at 13:00 and will sail for Athens at 20:00 this evening.

The next leg of our journey to the port of Piraeus (for Athens) is about 252 nautical miles and we expect to arrive at about 17:00 tomorrow after sailing through the night.

Salonika Port Leaflet

There was an organised excursion at Salonika as described on 'The Cruise' HERE. The Port Leaflet is not in the album but the compilers definitely went on the excursion as they brought back postcards and photos.

Photos and Souvenirs from Salonika

Salonika Fortress (Heptapyrgion) and Town Walls

The Heptapyrgion (Fortress of Seven Towers), also known as Yedi Kule to the Ottomans, rather surprisingly had ten towers. I presume three were added later than the original seven but the old name stuck. It was the city's redoubt - i.e. place of retreat and from Ottoman times until the late 19th Century it was the seat of the garrison commander. It was then turned into a prison which remained open until 1989.

The prison was put to good use by a succession of repressive regimes from the Mataxas Regime, the Nazis during German Occupation in WW2, and continuing through the Greek Civil War from 1946-1949 and the Regime of the Colonels 1967-1974.

Restoration and archaeological investigation began in the 1970s and continues. Five of the northern towers and the curtain wall connecting them may date to the Roman period and the other towers are thought to date to the 12th Century but this is still under debate.

The diagram below shows a plan of the Heptapyrgion site.

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Plan of the Heptapyrgion site [2]

The album included both a photo and a postcard suggesting that they were of the Heptagyrion but on looking at recent photos and Google Earth I was unable to locate the round tower shown. In fact they show part of the town walls within which the Heptapyrgion is sited.

The town walls were 7 kilometres long, up to 10 metres high and nearly 5 metres thick. The round tower is known as the 'Triangle Tower' for reasons I have not been able to fathom. The wall was fortified with various towers and this one was built in the 2nd half of the 15th Century as an armoury and artillery tower.


The album postcard below shows the city walls and Triangle Tower.

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Postcard showing Salonika city walls and Triangle Tower [1]

The album photo below shows some kind of square building and what looks like a radio mast on top of the Triangle Tower that are not shown on the postcard and were presumably recent additions.

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Photograph showing the Salonika city walls and Triangle Tower [1]

Salonika White Tower

Like all the places visited by our tourists, The White Tower has a long history. It guarded the Eastern end of the city's seawall and was constructed by the Ottomans some time after 1430 - probably replacing an even earlier tower built in the 12th Century. For some time it was surrounded by a 'chemise' or apron wall.

The Ottomans used it as a fortress, garrison and prison with torture and many executions taking place there so got called the 'Tower of Blood' or 'Red Tower' as a result. When Thessaloniki transferred from the Ottoman Empire to the Hellenic State in 1912, the tower was whitewashed as a symbol of cleansing and hence got it's present name; it is now more of a buff colour.

The White Tower is now a museum of the history of Thessaloniki.


The album postcard below gives a good idea of the area around the White Tower around 1936.

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Postcard showing the White Tower [1]

The image below shows the 'chemise' around the White Tower before it was demolished in 1917.

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'Chemise' formerly around the White Tower [2]

The image below shows the White Tower as it looks in 2018.

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View of the White Tower in 2019 [2]

Hagia Sophia Salonika

The church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) stands on the site of an earlier church built in the 3rd Century that was replaced in the 8th Century by the current building with a design inspired by that of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (modern Istanbul).

Built during the Byzantine Empire, it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral after the city was captured in 1205 during the 4th Crusade, but returned to the Byzantine Empire in 1246. Salonika was captured by Ottoman Emperor Sultan Murad II on 29 March 1430 and the church converted into a mosque. It was reconverted to a church after the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912.

Strangely the album contains neither a postcard nor a photo the church itself but I have included a modern one further down the page.


The album photo below has the caption 'Priests of St. Sophia and Daughter Salonika'. The 'daughter' is the lady referred to elsewhere as 'Poppy' and that helps narrow down who created the album. See my observations about this on the Passengers page HERE.

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Photo showing Greek Orthodox priests near the Hagia Sophia Salonika [1]

The photo below shows the Hagia Sophia as it appears in 2019.

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Modern view of the Hagia Sophia [2]

Hagios Demetrios

The first church on the site of Hagios Demetrios (Saint Demetrios) was built in the 4th Century AD on the site of a Roman bath. It was reconstructed as a basilica between 629 and 634. Like St Sophia, it functioned as a mosque between 1493 and 1912 when it was reinstated as a church. The roof and upper walls were destroyed in the Great Thessaloniki fire of 1917.

Clearly restoration had not got far by 1936 and it stopped altogether in 1938. It restarted in 1946 but astonishingly, tombstones from the city's Jewish cemetery which had been destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities were used as building materials in restoration efforts.

Christian services resumed in 1949 and the restoration is now complete. During the reconstruction, a crypt was rediscovered and this is now used as a museum showing various items of interest related to the church.


The album photo below shows the interior of Hagios Demetrios as it was in 1936.

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Photo showing the ruined interior of Hagios Demetrios Salonika [1]

The 2018 photo below shows the outside of the reconstructed church which is in amazing contrast to the 1936 postcard.

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2018 Photo showing the exterior of Hagios Demetrios Salonika [2]

The photo below shows the interior of the church after reconstruction. The decorations in the arch above the altar are quite different to those in in the 1938 postcard. The building looks beautiful but I wonder how close it is to the original.

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2018 Photo showing the interior of Hagios Demetrios Salonika [2]

Church of the Prophet Elijah

The origin of this building is uncertain but it may have started life as the church of the Akapniou Monastery which was founded in the 14th Century. It became the Sarayli Camii Mosque when the area was taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1430 and returned to Christian use in 1912. It is now known as Profitis Elisa (Prophet Elijah). Various restorations have been carried out over the centuries - the most recent completed in 1961.


The album postcard shows the church as it appeared in 1936. The White Tower can be seen centre left.

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Postcard showing the exterior of the Church of the Prophet Elijah Salonika [1]

I have been unable to find a modern photo taken from the same angle as the postcard but the two below show different ground-level views of the building.

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2018 view of the exterior of the Church of the Prophet Elijah Salonika [5]
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2018 view of the entrance of the Church of the Prophet Elijah Salonika [5]

The Galerian Complex

Following a crisis in the Roman Empire in the 3rd Century, the Roman Emperor Diocletian set up a system of Tetrarchy with power divided between four people. Galerius Valerianus Maximianus (293-311 AD) became the most prominent and chose Salonika as the seat of government for the Eastern Part of the Roman Empire.

A triumphal arch was built between 298 to 299 AD to celebrate the victory of Galerius over the Sassanid Persians at the Battle of Satala and the capture of their capital Ctesiphon in 298; it was dedicated in 303 AD. The structure consisted of an eight-pillared gateway forming a triple arch that was built of a rubble masonry core faced first with brick and then with marble panels with sculptural reliefs depicting the victory. Only part of it remains; the arch facing the Rotunda is gone.

Galerius ordered the construction of a Rotunda in 306 and may have intended it as his mausoleum. It is a massive round building which has similarities to the Pantheon in Rome, including an oculus (a round hole open to the sky) in the roof. The Rotunda was connected to the arch by a processional road.

The diagram below shows what archeologists believe to be the layout of the site.

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Layout of the arch and rotunda complex [2]

A great deal of further investigation of the area has taken place since WW2 and details of the 'Galerian Complex' can be found HERE.

The image below shows what archeologists believe the area would have looked like. The Rotunda is in the bottom right with a processional way leading up to the Triumphal Arch (centre right). Beyond that lay the Hippodrome which was used for chariot races and is believed to have been in use until at least the 6th Century.

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Impression of the Galerian site at Salonika [3]
The Triumphal Arch

The album postcard below shows the Triumphal Arch as it appeared in 1936. Weeds were growing all over it and there seems to have been no attempt at conservation or protection. Since then there has been significant redevelopment of the area. Note the tramlines under the arch and the streetlamp and flag attached to it; these have all been removed.

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Postcard showing Triumphal Arch [1]

The image below shows the appearance of the arch in 2018. The building in the right foreground of the previous image has been demolished enabling a wider view of the arch.

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2018 view of the Triumphal Arch [2]
The Rotunda

Whether or not the Rotunda was intended as a mausoleum or a Roman temple, it was turned into a Christian church with a sanctuary added to the Eastern side not long after it was built and supposedly dedicated to 'The Archangels'. It was the city's cathedral from 1524 to 1591, but was then converted to a mosque by the Ottoman Empire. After the liberation of Salonika in 1912 it was rededicated to St George (Agios Georgios). The minaret remains alongside.

The album postcard below is captioned 'St Georges (Byzantine Museum) Salonika'.

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Postcard labelled St Georges (Byzantine Museum) Salonika [1]

The image below shows the appearance of the Rotunda in 2018 but taken from another angle.

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2018 view of the Rotunda [3]

The image below shows the interior of the Rotunda in 2018 .

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2018 interior view of the Rotunda - now Agios Georgios [4]

National Dress

The album postcard below was with the other material from Salonika and shows a group of ladies in Greek National Dress.

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Postcard showing a group of Greek ladies in 'National Dress' [1]

I have never been convinced by the concept of a 'national dress' myself. I am sure that this would have varied from island to island and place to place - and certainly changed over time. It obviously goes down well with tourists.

I still have a copy of Odham's Children's Encyclopedia from my childhood in the 1950s. The frontispiece had a picture of 'national costumes' as you can see in the image below. The image reflects the British world view of the time: a British child in the bottom right wears modern clothes whereas all of the others wear quaint and colourful costumes - apart from a black child sitting next to her is labelled 'Negro' and doesn't seem to be wearing much more than a necklace and possibly a loincloth. The little Dutch boy sitting on the sledge at front left looks like he has just pulled his finger from the proverbial hole in the dyke, and the Chinese boy at top left looks like a young Fu Manchu. It is really painful to look at this in the marginally more enlightened 21st Century.

National Dress
National Dress of the World [6]

Image Credits

  1. From the website owner's album from the voyage
  2. By courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
  3. By courtesy of the Galerian Complex website
  4. By courtesy of the Archeology and Arts wiki
  5. Found on the internet with unknown provenance
  6. From Odham's Children's Encyclopedia - date unknown but probably 1950s.
  7. By courtesy of Google Earth
  8. Website owner's personal photographs