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Thessaloniki

White Tower

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White Tower – City Museum

At the meeting point of the eastern wall and the sea wall, stood a Byzantine tower, on the

site of which, in the late 15th century, the White Tower was erected. It was constructed as

part of a programme of modernization of the city’s fortifications by the Ottomans (cf.

Alysseos Tower). The emblem of Thessaloniki, the White Tower is intimately connected

with the city’s history and the focus of many legends reflected in its various names. The

original appellation Fort of Kalamaria (18th century) was replaced in the 19th century by

the names Tower of the Janissaries and Tower of Blood (Kanli Kule), referring to the use of

the building as a prison for long-term convicts and those sentenced to death, whom the

Janissaries executed on the battlements, dyeing with blood the exterior walls of the tower.

In 1890, the tower was whitewashed by a convict in exchange for his freedom, and was

henceforth known by its current name, the White Tower. As a defensive structure, it is a

characteristic example of the great circular towers of the late 15th and early 16th centuries,

which replaced the mediaeval rectangular structures, reflecting the need to defend

against the new and widespread practice of artillery warfare, which led to a variety of

innovations in defensive architecture. The structure was topped by a conical, wooden roof,

covered in lead. Until the early 20th century, a polygonal defensive structure survived at

the base of the tower, with apertures for cannon at sea level along the sides and small

towers serving as look-out points at the corners of the enclosing wall. This complex was

constructed in 1535-36, according to the Turkish inscription found above the entrance.

Inside the White Tower, there is now a museum where visitors can enjoy a digital

reconstruction of the city’s history.

‘Louloudadika’, the Baths of the Great Market (Yahudi Hamami)

In the Turkish records, the baths are known under a variety of names: the Baths of the

Great Market (Pazar-i kebir hamami), the Women’s Baths (Kadinlar hamami) and the Jewish

Baths (Yahudi hamami). The latter, and best-known, name is owed to the location of the

baths in an exclusively Jewish district. According to Evligia Tselemi and the Turkish

archives, the baths were established by a certain Halil Ağa, possibly the individual known to

have been a large stable owner and vezir in the mid-17th century. More recent opinion,

based on the typological and morphological characteristics of the building, would date it

earlier, perhaps to the first half of the 16th century. The baths were designed for use by

both sexes and have the typical triple layout (cold, warm and hot baths). The masonry is of

interest in its imitation of the Byzantine cloisonné system, as is the internal decoration

with plaster mortar.

Historic market sites: Vatikioti - Athonos, Vlali, Bezesteni

Within the commercial centre of the city, between the streets Ermou - Ionos Dragoumi-

Egnatia - M.Yennadeiou - Karolou Diel, there are three market complexes which have

represented indispensable focal points in the commercial life of the city for many decades,

if not centuries. There is ample evidence to convince us of the presence of markets on this

site since the time of Turkish rule, probably of the kind familiar in other mediaeval eastern

states. The area of the main market began at Egnatia Street, then known as ‘Broad Street’,

and extended as far as the southern side of the Church of Aghios Minas. To the east, it was

bounded by the district extending from Panayia Halkeon to the market baths (Komninon St.

– V. Irakleiou St.) and to the west by the avenue known as Yali Kapsi (Seafront Gate). It was

within the narrow streets and alleys of this quarter that most of the city’s commercial

activity took place. At the heart of the district stood the Flour Market (Un Kapani), which is

mentioned in the older Turkish records as Kapan-i Galle or the Kapani, a name still used by

local people to refer to the market. But from the early 20th century it ceased to function

as a flour market and began to sell all sorts of goods: lime from Asvestohori, tin and

earthenware vessels, rice and pulses, meat and seafood. The little square in the centre of

the Vlali market was occupied by stalls selling pets and other animals like sheep and

chickens. Following the fire of 1917, and the new layout of street blocks in the market

area, a programme was drawn up in October 1923 to sell off small lots and create new

markets in which rules would be laid down for the various types of stores and goods to be

sold in particular areas. These rules have remained in effect to the present day.

Bezesten (covered market)

This building – one of the most important legacies of Ottoman Thessaloniki – was located

right at the heart of the market area and represented a focal point in the life of the city

under Turkish rule. Its name is derived from the Turkish word bez – meaning cotton or linen

– and these buildings were mainly used as markets for high-quality cloths and fabrics,

although the markets did also house traders in other valuable and perishable goods, and for

this reason were often guarded. The Thessaloniki Bezesten was built in the 15th century,

either under Sultan Mehmet II in 1455, or a little later, under Sultan Bayazit II, towards the

end of the same century. It is a rectangular structure with entrances at the centre of each

side, divided internally into six blocks, and covered by six lead-covered domes that

correspond to the internal layout of the building. The stores located around the building

were added in the early 20th century. During the restoration work in 1978, carved

inscriptions were found on the lead sheets of the domes by craftsmen working on the

building between 1786 and 1927. Written in Greek, Turkish, French and southern Slav, they

indicate the nationalities of the men who worked on the building at various times. Finally,

it should be noted that this is one of the very few Ottoman buildings in the city which has

retained its original use, although the modern visitor will probably not enjoy the same

wealth of sound, sight and smell that the market must have once offered.

Hamza Bey mosque (Alcazar)

The building is known locally as the Alcazar, because that was the name of the cinema that

was housed inside it for many years. It is one of the most important examples of Ottoman

architecture in all of south-eastern Europe, the largest mosque with a peristyle courtyard

and the only one of its kind in Greece. Our knowledge of its origins and the various phases

of its construction is derived from inscriptions on the walls of the building. It was originally

constructed as a mesçid or parish mosque without a minaret in 1467/68 by Hafsa Hatun,

daughter of Hamza Bey, Beyler Bey of Anatolia. The original mesçid was later enlarged with

the construction of two rectangular areas on the northern and southern sides of the original

four-sided chamber, the addition of a perimetrical covered stoa to the west and the

construction of a minaret at the south-western corner of the original building. Some

scholars date the conversion of the building to a mosque to the years before 1492, most

however agree that the conversion work took place in the second half of the 16th century

(between 1570 and 1592). A third reconstruction was carried out in 1620, by Kapici Mehmed

Bey. The main part of the mosque has survived in good condition, with its lead-covered

dome and its interior decoration, featuring stalactites of plaster mortar and wall paintings.

The columns of the portico still have the original capitals, taken from early Christian

buildings. Work has recently begun on consolidating and restoring the building.

Bey Hamami (Paradise Baths)

This large bathhouse was constructed in 1444 by Sultan Murat II, according to the Arabic

inscription above the entrance to the men’s baths. The baths were designed for use by both

sexes, with separate entrances and facilities for men and women. The men’s baths are

larger and more opulently decorated. Of particular interest, with a ceiling magnificently

decorated with stalactites, is the special area reserved for use of the Bey himself, which

communicates with the men’s hot bath. The bathhouse remained in use until as recently as

1968.

Ottoman Bank (formerly the Frangon National Insurance Fund office, now the State

Conservatoire)

The present building was constructed after 1903, on the site of the mansion of Jek Abbott.

The engineers Barouh and Amar designed the new building, retaining the façade grid of the

earlier building. Repairs and additions were made in line with plans by engineers Pleyber

(1921) and Modiano (1924). The main feature in the layout of the building is the internal

atrium, which appears closed on the ground floor, with a vaulted glass roof. Its style is neobaroque

with clear French influences.

Paşa Hamami (Phoenix Baths)

At the junction of Zefyron, Kalvou and P. Karatza Streets, stands the Turkish bathhouse

founded by Cezeri Kasim Paşa, Sancakbey of Thessaloniki in around 1520-1530, the same

man who converted the Church of Aghion Apostolon into a mosque. The baths, known to the

Turks as Paşa Hamami, were originally just for men, but later converted to incorporate

facilities for women. They remained in use until 1981.

Vardari Fort (Top Hane)

The fort, located at the south-western corner of the city wall system, was constructed in

1546 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) in order to protect the western flank

of the port. The system of fortifications around the city had included on its eastern side

part of the western early Christian and Byzantine walls. The rectangular tower at its

eastern edge is also known as the Tower of the Relief. This section of the wall has been

identified with the Tzerebulon mentioned in Byzantine sources of the 15th century, i.e. the

breakwater which closed off on the south-western side the artificial harbour constructed by

Constantine the Great in 322-23. At that time, the sea came up almost to the level of

where Frangon Street lies in the modern city. The Byzantine port gradually silted up during

the period of Turkish rule, creating the area where the Istira market later developed (see

above under Ladadika). A Turkish report of 1733 refers to it under the names Top-hane

(arsenal tower) and Tamba-hane (tanners’ tower). The tower was designed to allow the use

of artillery and must have formed part of a programme to modernize the city’s fortifications.

Various repair and consolidation work was carried out later, the most important

project being the one of 1741, when the southern part of the wall facing inwards was

broadened by 18 metres, creating an embankment on which three powder magazines were

constructed.

Home of Mustafa Kemal – Ataturk (Turkish Consulate)

Next to the Turkish Consulate General stands the house, in traditional architectural style,

whose historical significance lies in the fact that it was the birthplace of the founder of the

modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938). The house is now a museum

Yeni Hamam (Aigli Baths)

Built by Hüsrev Kedhuda in the late 16th century, this was a bathhouse with separate

facilities for both sexes, but which underwent radical modification when it became the

Aigli cinema, which remained open until 1978.

Alaca İmaret Camii or İshak Paşa Camii (Alaca Imaret Mosque)

According to the inscription above the entrance, the mosque was built by İshak Paşa in 1484

and formed part of a vakif or charitable foundation, which also included a poorhouse and

school. Its operational expenses were supplied from rent and taxes on land and institutions.

It took its name Alaca from the multi-coloured walls of the minaret, of which only the base

remains, at the south-western corner. The building is now used by the Deputy Mayor’s

Department of the City of Thessaloniki for staging cultural events.

Main Administrative Building (Konaki), now the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace

Construction work on the present building began in 1891, to plans drawn up by architect

Vitaliano Poselli and on a site slightly below that of the old Konaki, which was demolished

the same year. The building was home to various departments of the Turkish administration

(municipal rolls office, accounts, land registry, mortgage registry, magistrate’s court, the

great hall of the prefectural council, furnished with legendary opulence, the foreign affairs

directorate, the police and gendarmerie, the court of first instance and commercial court,

the religious court). In 1907, the building housed the Turkish Law School, and in 1911,

Sultan Mehmed V, who stayed here during his visit to Thessaloniki. In 1954, it was decided

to carry out repairs to the building and gather inside it all the departments of the General

Administration of Northern Greece – as the regions of Macedonia-Thrace were at that time

denominated. This renovation also involved the addition of a fourth floor, completed in

1955.

Noteworthy buildings in the vicinity of the Church of Aghia Aikaterini

This north-western area of the Upper City corresponds more or less to the old Turkish

quarter of Yakub Paşa – known for its many public fountains, school, opium den, poorhouse

and mosque with graveyard. There are some noteworthy buildings scattered here and there

along Papadopoulou, Antigonis, Tsamadou and Sahtouri Streets, and also next to the walls

on Isminis Street. The features these buildings share, in common with their counterparts all

across the Upper City, are traditional architecture with certain neoclassical features,

sahnisia or projecting upper floors, symmetry of ground plans and facades, depending on

the special character of each building and the size of the plot.

Noteworthy buildings in the Tsinari district, on F. Dragoumi, Kleious, A. Papadopoulou

and Dim. Poliorkitou Streets


The area of the Upper City located above the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace is still known by

its Turkish name Tsinari – from the Turkish word çinarli, meaning a plane tree. At the

centre of the quarter, stood the school and the mosque. The main streets in the

neighborhood were Kleious, A. Papadopoulou and Dim. Poliorkitou. Here too the houses

display the common features of the Upper City: traditional architecture with some

neoclassical features; symmetry in the main facades; a number of timber structures;

projecting upper floors; two- storey structures with semi-basements in some cases. There

are several houses worth seeing on Kleious and Dim. Poliorkitou Streets, particularly no. 23

on the latter (corner with A. Papadopoulou St.), where we see a double projecting upper

storey on one face, and also no. 37, which has been restored and now houses the National

Map and Cartographic Heritage Centre (4a). At the corner of Kleious and A. Papadopoulou

Streets, stands the last example of the typical kafeneion of the Turkish period, the Tsinari,

opposite the fountain of Murat II (Byzantine monument), a meeting place for the local

people. Before leaving this group of Upper City houses, we must just mention the building

on the corner of F. Dragoumi and Olympiados Streets, a fine example of eclectic

architecture with a clear neoclassical influence.

Noteworthy buildings in the vicinity of Taxiarchon Church and Romfeis Square – Koule

Kafe (Mouson and Theotokopoulou Sts.)


This district, known to the Turks as Iki Şerife, tended to merge with the neighboring

Christian quarter of the Vlatadon Monastery, since Christians and Turks lived side by side in

a number of streets. It was from the 16th century onwards that the district began to

evolve.

On the northern side of Romfeis Square, on 7, Krispou Street, stands a particularly

significant building, a broad, double-faced residence which is a typical example of a private

Balkan house. It displays certain neoclassical features, but also a distinctive eclecticism,

with the two symmetrical curved sahnisia (projecting upper stories) on the central axes of

each part. Significant internal modifications – particularly the use of reinforced concrete to

replace the stairways – took place in 1959, when the building was renovated for use (until

the 1980’s) as a high school. It has been restored with funds of the Ministry of Culture and

purchased by the City Council for use as the offices of various cultural organizations.

There are other interesting buildings at the junction of Theotokopoulou and Mouson

Streets, as well as in the vicinity of the Church of the Taxiarchs, on 26, Mouson Street. The

latter displays the typical organization of the main façade, with a row of triangular sahnisia

on the second floor. Also of interest is the building on 47, Mouson Street – owned by the

Ministry of Culture and used to house part of the offices of the Ephorate of Modern

Monuments of Central Macedonia – with the wooden decorations on its façade.

The Gardens of the Pasha

On the large plot of land where the Aghios Dimitrios Hospital is built, namely in the space

between the hospital and the tuberculosis sanatorium demolished in 1955, stands a small

group of buildings intended to adorn the huge gardens that once belonged to the hospital.

This great open space was surrounded by high walls and planted with pines, while in one

section there was a seating area with fountains and other decorative features, intended to

provide cooling relaxation for the visitor, as well as a splendid view of the city below. The

Gardens of the Pasha (no specific Pasha appears to be meant by the title) were laid out in

1904, according to an inscription in one of the walls. They provide an example of the

architecture of the imagination given free play in the open air. Moreover, they are the only

completed work representing this current of architecture in Thessaloniki. Only a few of the

original buildings have survived, scattered over an area of 1,000 square metres: a fountain

with a tunnel around it, a cistern for collecting rainwater, a low gate leading into an

underground area, and an elevated seating area.

Alysseos Tower or Trigonio Tower (Tzintzirli Kule or Kousakli Kule)

The name is later than the tower itself, and was borrowed from the Byzantine name of the

district where it stands (Trigonio). It was at this point that the Turks breached the defences

of the city in 1430. During the period of Turkish rule, it was known as Tzintzirli Kule (tower

of the chain) or Kousakli Kule (girdled tower). In the 15th century, it replaced the Byzantine

Trigonio Tower, incorporating the latter in its construction. This explains its

labyrinthine internal layout. Around the middle of the 16th century, it was modified, taking

the form we see today. It was used up until the 18th century as a powder magazine and

arsenal. This type of tower represented a response to the developments in technology and

the art of war that occurred from the second half of the 15th century onwards, with the

increasing use of artillery. The Trigonio Tower, together with the White Tower and the

Vardari Fort, formed part of the system of defenses constructed by the Turks to strengthen

critical but vulnerable points in the Byzantine fortifications and make them capable of

withstanding the new techniques of warfare.

Eptapyrgio Fort (Yedi Kule)

The Eptapyrgio Fort is an adaptation of an earlier Byzantine fort, which underwent

modification in 1431, immediately after the capture of the city by the Turks, as we learn

from the Turkish inscription above the main gate of its central tower; the walls of the tower

also incorporate some pieces of sculpture taken from an earlier Byzantine building. The

Eptapyrgio owes its name, like its namesake in Constantinople, to the seven rectangular

towers of which it is composed, together with the curtain wall and the central tower of the

gateway, laid out in the shape of the Greek letter Π. It is a polygonal fort, formed on the

north-eastern edge of the Acropolis with the addition of an almost semi-circular wall following

the outline of its enclosure, towards the interior of the Acropolis. The original layout

of the closed fort must date from the late-Byzantine period. Research conducted in parallel

with restoration in recent years has yielded important new evidence on the many

interventions and repairs the fort has underwent, as well as on the original form and articulation

of the towers, which have internal vaulted stairways to allow communication

between the different floors. The most radical modifications appear to have been made to

the central entrance tower in the period of Turkish rule, when the fort was used as the

headquarters of the Turkish governor. In the late 19th century, the fort was converted into

a prison, known by the Turkish name of the fort – Yedi Kule. Various new structures were

built to serve the needs of the prison, both within the fort and on the external southern

face – which was completely concealed. The prison was closed down in 1989 and the fort

now houses the offices of the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.

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