Saint Demetrius / Dimitrios, and the Church of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Saint Demetrius, patron Saint of Thessaloniki, a Christian martyr, born into an aristocratic family of the Roman province of Macedonia, in 270 AD, is one of the most important military, or, warrior saints, often paired with Saint George, and one of the most popular saints of The Greek Orthodox Church.
The Feast Day of Saint Demetrius is celebrated on 26 October.
Despite his high military position, in the Pagan Roman army, under the Tetrarchy of the Roman Emperors; Diocletian Maximian, Galerius, and Constantine, during the Great Persecution, or, the Diocletian Persecution of Christians, 303-313 AD, Saint Demetrius, remained a faithful Christian.
He even managed to convert many Pagans to the Christian faith.
Jealous of Saint Demetrius’ success, the Pagans denounced him, throwing him into prison, (Which was an old, unused Roman bath) where he was visited by Saint Nestor, who asked the blessing of Saint Demetrius, in order to help him slay Lyaios, the most feared Roman gladiator, who mocked and tormented the Christians in the arena .
Against all odds, Saint Nestor slayed Lyaios, which resulted in the Emperor, first beheading Saint Nestor, outside the city, and then having Saint Demetrius impaled in Prison, and later went on to behead Saint Demetrius’ slave, Lupus, for using the blood-stained tunic and ring of his master, to work miracles.
The Christians buried Demetrius and Nestor, side by side, in the unused Roman bath, where Demetrius had been imprisoned and executed.
|Crypt of Saint Demetrius, in the church dedicated to the martyr.|
" According to tradition, this is where Demetrius was imprisoned, put to death and buried."
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In the seventh century, a miraculous flow of myrrh was said to be seeping from the tomb of Saint Demetrius, giving rise to the name; Saint Demetrius “Mirovlitis”, Saint Demetrius the Myrrh Streamer.
Also in the seventh century AD, a book, “The Miracles of Saint Demetrius” in Latin “Miracula Sancti Demetri” were compiled, telling of the miracles of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki.
The book is divided into two volumes, the first, written by John, Archbishop of Thessaloniki (610-620), describes miracles attributed to Saint Demetrius.
Fifteen miracles are mentioned in the first volume of “Miracles of Saint Demetrius” including the intervention of the Saint, during the siege of Thessaloniki, (Known as the invasion of the Slavs), and how the Saint saved the city from the plague.
The second volume, written sometime around 680, by an unknown author, is mostly an historic account of Saint Demetrius, both volumes, were publicly read, to the citizens of Thessaloniki.
The Church of Saint Demitrius.
|The Church of Hagios Demetrius, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius,|
the patron saint of Thessaloniki
The first church of Saint Demetrius was built in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of The Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople, early in the fourth century AD, on the site, said to be the spot, where Saint Demetrius was imprisoned, and executed, in an unused Roman bath.
|Catacombs of Saint Demetrius, Thessaloniki, the church is|
believed to be built, the site of the old Roman baths, where Saint Demetrius was executed.
It was the most important and largest shrine in the city, larger than the local Cathedral (Site unknown).
A century later, Leondis, a regional governor, replaced the small oratory (A room for prayer) with a larger, three-aisled basilica (A building for public worship).
|Saint Demetrius Church, after " The Great Fire of Thessaloniki"|
The Church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki contains an unusual shrine; The ciborium, an hexagonal, roofed, construction, to one side of the nave.
Inside the ciborium, is a bed, and, although it is believed that for four centuries after the Saint’s death, it contained no relics, it seemed to have been a symbolic tomb of Saint Demetrius.
The church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki is famous for six mosaic panels, depicting Saint Demetrius, together with the officials, responsible for the church’s restoration, and with children.
These mosaic panels are rare examples of Byzantine art, which have survived from the Dark Ages, following the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Justinian (527-565 AD).
|Saint Demetrius with children,|
one of very few Byzantine mosaics that escaped destruction from the hands of the iconoclasts.
Other magnificent mosaics (recorded as decorating the interior of the church) have been lost, either during the four centuries, when the church functioned as a mosque, under Ottoman rule (1493-1912), or in “The Great Fire of Thessaloniki” in 1917, which destroyed most of the city.
It took decades to rebuild the church, after the great fire, and during the excavations, a Roman bath was discovered, believed to be the place where Saint Demetrius was held prisoner and later executed.
A Roman well was also discovered, during reconstruction of the church, thought to be the well, into which Roman soldiers threw Saint Demetrius’ body, after his death.
|The fountain, in the crypt of Saint Demetrius Church, Thessaloniki.|
Believed to be the well, into which the Romans threw the body of the Saint.
The rebuilding, of The Church of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki, was finally finished and the church was re-consecrated in 1949.
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki (in Central Macedonia, Greece), dating from a time when it was the second largest city of the Byzantine Empire, is now part of the Palaeochristian site, and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki which were added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1988.
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