The Rotunda of Galerius

The Rotunda of Galerius by V-Light
Path leading to the Rotunda, right next to the Arch of Galerius

 

  The Rotunda is a massive circular structure with a masonry core that used to have an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome. It has gone through multiple periods of use and modification as a polytheist temple, a Christian basilica, a Muslim mosque, and again a Christian church (and archaeological site).

The Rotunda of Galerius II by V-Light
The Rotunda is also known as the Church of Agios Georgios

 

  The cylindrical structure was built in 306 AD on the orders of the tetrarch Galerius, who was thought to have intended it to be his mausoleum. It was more likely intended as a temple; it is not known to what god it would have been dedicated. Eventually, Galerius died in 311 AD and he was buried in Felix Romuliana, modern Serbia. In the 4th century AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine I converted it into an Orthodox church and many frescoes were painted inside, some of which survive today on the walls of Rotunda.

Eventually, Galerius died in 311 AD and he was buried in Felix Romuliana, modern Serbia. In the 4th century AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine I converted it into an Orthodox church and many frescoes were painted inside, some of which survive today on the walls of Rotonda. Source: www.greeka.com
Eventually, Galerius died in 311 AD and he was buried in Felix Romuliana, modern Serbia. In the 4th century AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine I converted it into an Orthodox church and many frescoes were painted inside, some of which survive today on the walls of Rotonda. Source: www.greeka.com
Eventually, Galerius died in 311 AD and he was buried in Felix Romuliana, modern Serbia. In the 4th century AD, the Byzantine emperor Constantine I converted it into an Orthodox church and many frescoes were painted inside, some of which survive today on the walls of Rotonda. Source: www.greeka.com

The Rotunda has a diameter of 24.5 m. Its walls are 6.3 m thick, which is why it has withstood Thessaloniki’s earthquakes. The walls are interrupted by eight rectangular bays, with the south bay forming the entrance. A flat brick dome, 30 m high at the peak, crowns the cylindrical structure. In its original design, the dome of the Rotunda had an oculus, as does the Pantheon in Rome.

The Rotunda of Galerius - Minaret by V-Light
The preserved minaret from its use as a mosque

 

In the 14th century, the Ottomans occupied Thessaloniki and in 1590, the Rotonda was converted into a mosque. In fact, a minaret was added to the building that has been restored and survives till today. Source: www.greeka.com

  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 of Galerius III by V-Light

  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.

Source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Galerius_and_Rotunda)

 

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6 thoughts on “The Rotunda of Galerius

    1. Good question! These old buildings were built with more care and mastery, our newer constructions are mostly cheap and fast. I was in awe when i read that the walls of the Rotunda are 6.3m thick…That’s crazy, i just couldn’t wrap my brain around it…

    1. Hey 🙂 Thank you! No unfortunately, i’ve never been inside. It’s never open when i pass by…Maybe there are certain hours that it’s open but i don’t live in Thessaloniki anymore so i don’t know if i’ll be able to visit the interior any time soon.

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