Arch and Tomb of Galerius

From Academic Kids

The Arch of Galerius (Greek: τόξο του Γαλερίου or Aψίδα του Γαλερίου) and the Tomb of Galerius (Τάφος του Γαλερίου) are neighbouring monuments in the city of Thessaloniki, in the province of Central Macedonia in northern Greece. The Tomb of Galerius is better known as the Rotonda, the Church of Agios Georgios or (in English) the Rotunda of St. George. The 4th century Roman Emperor Galerius intended these two structures to form part of an imperial precinct linked to his Thessaloniki palace, which no longer survives.

The Arch of Galerius

The Arch of Galerius
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The Arch of Galerius

The Arch of Galerius, popularly called Kamara (Καμάρα) by Greeks, stands in what was in Roman times the centre of Thessaloniki, about 1.5km east-north-east of the modern centre of the city. It is located on what is now Dimitrios Gounari Street. The arch was built in 305 AD, to celebrate the triumph of Galerius over the Persians. The structure originally consisted of four main pillars and two smaller ones on each side, the former supporting a central dome.

Today only three pillars and a part of the brick masonry above survive. The other parts of the structure were destroyed at an unknown date, probably during one of many earthquakes which have damaged Thessaloniki throughout its history. The two main pillars are covered with sculpted marble slabs, which depict the wars of Galerius against the Persians. The central arched opening is 9.7 metres wide and 12.5 metres high and the secondary opening is 4.8 metres wide and 6.5 metres high.

The Tomb of Galerius

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The Tomb of Galerius, now the Church of Agios Giorgios or Church of the Rotonda

About 200 metres north of the Arch of Galerius is the Tomb of Galerius, now the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Giorgios, better known as the Church of the Rotonda. The cylindrical structure was built in 306 AD on the orders of Galerius, who intended it to be his mausoleum. After Galerius's death in 311, however, it stood empty until the Emperor Constantine the Great ordered it converted into a Christian church.

The Rotonda has a diameter of 24.5 metres. Its walls are more than 6 metres thick, which is one reason 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 metres high at the peak, crowns the cylindrical structure.

The building was a church for over 1,200 years until the city fell to the Ottomans. In 1590 it was then converted into a mosque, the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi, and a minaret was added to the structure. It remained a mosque until 1912, when the Greeks captured the city during the Balkan War. It was then formally reconverted to a church, but the minaret was retained. The structure was damaged during an earthquake in 1978 but was subsequently restored. In 2002 the minaret was still being stabilised with scaffolding. The building is now a historical monument under the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The Rotonda is the oldest of Thessaloniki's churches, and some publications in Greece claim that it is the oldest Christian church in the world, although there are a number of other claimants to that title. It is certainly the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.

External links

el:Αψίδα του Γαλέριου

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