Agios Nikolaos Orfanos

Agios Nikolaos Orfanos

The 14th century Byzantine temple of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos is one of Thessaloniki’s most beautiful churches. Located in a quiet area behind the Northeast section of the city’s walls it remains hidden from many visitors and even some locals!

Agios Nikolaos Orfanos is one of the many precious treasures the old city hides. It stands like a small oasis that will take you centuries back within seconds in a magical way. You’ll immediately understand from the very first moment that there is something different about that building.

The temple was built at the beginning of the 14th century during the Paleologian period of the Byzantine Empire in 1320 aD. It is the Katholikon (main temple) of an older Byzantine monastery while it still remains a glebe of Vlatadon Monastery and belongs to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The name of the temple is believed to be taken from its founder while it is also a fact that Saint Nikolas (Agios Nikolaos) was the protector of the orphaned children as well. According to the local tradition though, the existence of an orphanage inside the monastery was the reason for this name. A small part of the propylon (gate) of the older buildings survives and is still visible next to the main entrance of the site.

Wonderful wall paintings and interior decoration

The initial form of the structure was a three aisled Basilica that hasn’t been preserved. Today’s building is a single aisled Basilica that features a wooden roof and an ambulatory that leads to two small chapels to the East side of the building. The interior is filled with beautiful Theodosian capitals along with a marble “templon” that is dated back to the construction date of the temple!

The walls are filled with wonderful 14th century wall paintings of unique style and quality! The colors are considered outstanding for the Byzantine standards and technics while the featured themes are impressive! It is a remarkable set of frescoes that could be considered a masterpiece in terms of religious art.

The available space (the surface of the walls) was fully utilized as the Byzantine artists created several subsequent zones with different themes.

  • The shapes of many Saints, the miracles of Christ and other important events are some of the most familiar narrative elements the interior hosts. The intense colors and the liveliness of the frescoes along with the unique details make Agios Nikolaos Orfanos one of the most beautiful Byzantine temples of Thessaloniki.

This is the result of the culmination of the Byzantine religious art. The creativity of the so-called mature period of the Paleologian Renaissance of the early 14th century is expressed with Thessalonian artists like Michael Astrapa, Georgiou Kalliergi and Eutihios.

It is possible that the artist who created these wall paintings has also decorated the “Katholikon”, the main temple of the Serbian Hilandari monastery located in the historic Mount Athos. This happened during the reign of the Serbian King Stefan Miliutin in 1314, a time period where Thessaloniki emerged as the artistic crossroad of the Balkans!

The monastery remained active throughout the centuries while Agios Nikolaos Orfanos was never turned into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation period! The wall paintings were revealed in 1957 – 1960 when after painful efforts they were properly preserved and restored.

The temple is located in Apostolou Pavlou St that follows the walls in a parallel way and Irodotou St on the West. Since the building is not visible from a distance you may need to have a careful look into the narrow, beautiful streets of this historic neighborhood.

Most of the visitors and locals still remember the first time they saw this temple and the unique feelings this “discovery” created.

Seek the hidden treasures of the Old City! Believe us, you will not regret it!

  •   Just a few minutes away from Agios Nikolaos Orfanos, on the other side of the walls you’ll meet the mysterious Gardens of Pasha, a small park with buildings of Fantastic Architecture built in 1914. If you head north following the city walls you’ll discover the wonderful view from the Trigonio Tower and the Heptapygion (Fortress of the Seven Towers).
  •   If you feel hungry or desperate for a coffee you can always visit one of the small traditional taverns of the area or the café next to the eastern walls (follow Elenis Zografou St) that also offer an amazing view of Thessaloniki!



Church of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos Irodotou 1, Thessaloniki 546 23


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