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Rotunda of Galerius
Written by Arjunan on May 22, 2020 Share on

Arch of Galerius and Rotunda – History of Archaic Marvels in Greece

Located in Macedonia region of Greece, Thessaloniki is the second-largest city and is definitely one of the most sought-after and fascinating destinations of the country. Thessaloniki is serene to fall in love with, it has charm, disarray, history and culture, exceptional cuisine, and sublime sea views. Reverting back to the late 3rd century A.D., after a number of long ruinous wars, the Romans decided to divide the Empire into 4 regions, each with its own provinces, thus leading to the fabrication of a new form of leadership, the Tetrarchy. Galerius built an Imperial Complex to fulfill administrative requirements of the Tetrarchy after he rose to power. He named it The Arch of Galerius and Rotunda.


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The Arch of Galerius and Rotunda were basic elements of the palatial complex. Original intentions were foreseeing its use as a mausoleum, although many archaeologists believe it was used as a Roman temple, in the beginning. The dimensions of the main structure are magnificent and stunning.

Arch of Galerius
Image credits: Google Images

History of The Arch of Galerius

Located right in the heart of the city and only a few minutes walking distance from Navarinou Square, the imposing Kamara is located right at the junction of Egnatia and Demetriou Gounari street. Erected between 298 and 305 AD to celebrate Galerius unbeaten triumph against the Persians, it is one of the 15 Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki that were added in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988. The arch maintains the glory of the Galerius supremacy and is an add on to Galerius palace, the ruins of which can be admired around the same area.

While the purpose was to emphasize the triumph of Rome, it is of no surprise that the center of the scenes depicted is the emperor and the imperial family. Emperor Galerius is shown mounted while attacking, as an eagle bearing a victory wreath advances towards him. The panel expresses the might of the Roman Caesar, a basic and crucial element of the Roman political theory.

The Arch of Galerius is perhaps the most unique and interesting roman structure of Thessaloniki. It is also one of the most sought-after destinations of the city along with the White Tower for both locals and tourists.

The Rotunda of Galerius
Image Credits: Google Images

The Rotunda of Galerius

This humongous round building is said to be Thessaloniki’s age-old monument; counting 16 centuries of standing tall, the Rotunda can be found slightly north of the Arch of Galerius. The Rotunda of Galerius, has first served as a Roman mausoleum, then as a Christian church, and in due course as a mosque. Its interior is adorned with early Christian mosaics, while its exterior is the city’s only surviving minaret. It was also built by the Roman Galerius as a fraction of the Palatial complex, and it was intended to serve as the emperor’s mausoleum.

In the late 4th century, the Rotunda was turned into a Christian church, at the time when Thessaloniki began flourishing by becoming a provincial capital of the West. Later on, when the Ottoman Turks reigned Thessaloniki in 1591, the church was converted into a mosque. Nowadays, newly restored, the Rotunda is a simple space that showcases the structure’s holy purpose, while its astonishing mosaics and architecture impress thousands of visitors every day.

The unusually thick walls of the building reveal the reason rotunda clung to life after a number of devastating earthquakes throughout the centuries. In spite of it being a Church for 1200 years, it was transformed into a mosque in 1590 A.D., during the Ottoman period. Today several discussions are being held concerning its use as a museum or a church. On December 18, 2015, Rotunda reopened its doors to the public after a long restoration and preservation work, so nowadays the whole world will have the odds to enjoy the monument and get a sight of its old glory.

The Palatial Complex, Kamara, and Rotunda located in the center of Thessaloniki present innumerable combinations on where to go and what to see. Pickyourtrail will help you pick the right destination and enjoy your trip.


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