Saint Demetrius / Dimitrios, and the Church of Thessaloniki, Greece. Feast Day 26 October.

Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki
Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki


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.



The Tetrarchs, porphyry, probably at the Philadelphion, in Constantinople, until 1204. Now in Venice
The Tetrarchs, porphyry, probably at the Philadelphion, in Constantinople, until 1204.
 Now in Venice.

 (Tetrarchy comes from the Greek words for four (tetra) and rule (arch) Tetrarchy refers to the establishment by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, in 293, of a 4-part division of the empire)




Saint Demetrius, encouraged Christians to endure persecution, and resist all demands, that Christian soldiers, comply with traditional Roman religious practices.

 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 .



Saint Demetrius, blessing Saint Nestor
Saint Demetrius, blessing Saint Nestor


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 Demetrios, in the church dedicated to the martyr. " According to tradition, this is where Demetrios was imprisoned, put to death and buried." Greece is. com
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."
Greece is. com


The feast Day of Saint Nestor, is celebrated, one day after the Feast Day of Saint Demetrius (26 October) on 27 October.


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.


Relics of St. Demetrius,  a Military Saint at the Aghios Demetrius Basilica, Thessaloniki
Relics of Saint Demetrius,
 a Military Saint at the Hagios Demetrius Basilica, Thessaloniki


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.
Haigos Demetrios
 Thessaloniki.




The Church of Hagios Demetrius, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius,  the patron saint of Thessaloniki
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
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" 1917
Saint Demetrius Church, after " The Great Fire of Thessaloniki"
1917


The church, which was repeatedly destroyed by fire, was eventually rebuilt as a five- aisled basilica in 629-634.


The Church of Saint Demetrius in Thessaloniki contains an unusual shrine; The ciborium, an hexagonal, roofed, construction, to one side of the nave.



Small shrine inside the church,  containing the remnants of St. Demetrius
Small shrine inside the church,
 containing the remnants of St. Demetrius 


 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.

This ciborium has been rebuilt, at least once.



The remains of the original ciborium Photo vlass2000
The remains of the original ciborium
Photo vlass2000


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.



  Saint Demetrius with Archbishop John and regional governor,Leondis , Thessaloniki, mosaic, 650
Saint Demetrius with Archbishop John and regional governor,Leondis ,
Thessaloniki, mosaic, 650


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,Saint Demetrius Church, Thessaloniki
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.
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.


For anyone wanting to learn more about The Orthodox Church, have a look at this popular book; by Timothy Ware; "The Orthodox Church", it's  a mine of information, easy to follow, and nothing is left out;



"As a Non-Orthodox Christian, I found Timothy Ware's edition of the "Orthodox Church" very helpful in coming to glimpse with the historical and doctrinal aspects of the church.
Part One of this book displays a well-defined and compact discourse concerning the Early Church, the Church of the Seven Councils, and the struggling Church in a state of siege and persecution.
Part Two makes evident the faith and worship of the Orthodox Church. In this section, Timothy Ware discusses the principles behind Orthodox Liturgy, the Sacraments, and God's relations with the individuals that constitute the invisible body of the Church. As a reader I discovered the the little things that engendered big friction between the East and the West. Also I found valuable information about the rise of communist Russia, the internal and external dissent between Orthodox Churches during this period, and the prevalence of a faith that has remained nearly unchanged throughout the ups and downs of its long history.
So I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Church History, or for someone who simply wishes to look at the Orthodox Church from the pen of an Orthodox writer."

Review written by a happy Amazon customer!



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If fantasy is more to your liking, check this out, "Thessalonica" by Harry Turtledove.


"George was a shoemaker - but not just a simple artisan. He thought a lot, worried too much and questioned everything. But he knew when to keep his mouth shut, and he knew his duty. Life in the Roman Empire was hard these days, and no one could say it might not get harder. Cities to the north of Thessalonica on the Greek peninsula had already fallen to the swarming Slavs and Alars.
The tribes were definitely on the move, bringing their powerful pagan demons with them: bats with gleaming red eyes spied out the city, diving on the militia men as they patrolled the city walls; giant wolves whose howls chilled the soul surrounded the city; and there were rumors of worse. Even the satyrs, centaurs, nymphs and other remnants of the Greek pantheon lurking in the mountains around Thessalonica were frightened. George's city was a Christian light in a sea of pagan darkness. And now that sea was rising, threatening to wash over him and his little island as if they did not exist and were of no account.

For George, that was just unacceptable. He was a simple artisan - but that didn't mean he wouldn't give everything to defend his family, his city and his faith."





Read more posts about Saints of the Greek Orthodox Church, at the links below.




4 comments:

  1. Very interesting.
    The church is a "must see" for every visitor to Thessalonica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Hilary, I haven;t seen the church, but, it's on my "Things to see" list!
      Susan.x

      Delete
  2. Sorry we missed the church when we visited Thessalonica. Loved this post so much that I am sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! I haven't seen the church either, I must do something about that!
      Susan.x

      Delete

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