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The history behind Rotunda – Thessaloniki

The Rotunda is one of the oldest religious sites and most imposing monuments in Thessaloniki. This emblematic monument is a large complex that included the palaces, an octagonal building and the hippodrome. It was built in 306 A.D. by Caesar Galerius, a Roman emperor, on the turning point between the pagan with the Christian world, probably as a temple for ancient cult worship or as a mausoleum for Constantine the Great. The impressive aspect of it, is that because of the measures of the building it can only be compared architecturally to the Pantheon in Rome.

According to Byzantine texts, the church was dedicated to the Archangels (Church of Asomaton or Archangelon). It was Thessaloniki’s cathedral church (metropolis) between 1524 and 1590. Despite being a Christian temple for 1200 years, that year it was converted into a mosque, called the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi, during the Ottoman occupation period. It remained in use as a mosque until the city’s liberation in 1912 when the Greeks captured the city during the Balkan War.

In 1917 El. Venizelos declared the building a Macedonian museum and it was a Christian sculpture exhibition until the earthquake of 1978. In 2015 Rotonda reopened its doors to the public after extended restoration and preservation work. 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 monument for various festivities some days of the year.

Some Greek publications claim Rotunda 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. Today everyone will have the chance to enjoy the monument and get a glimpse of its old glory. Do not miss the chance to visit such a prestigious and valuable place such as the Rotunda. You can visit and admire its unique beauty by renting a low priced car from our car rental company. This will save unnecessary hassle with public transport and money on taxis.