Thessaloniki is a city of many faces and different stories. A beloved sanctuary for many nations and minorities all of which left their marks in the urban landscape.
Alaca Imaret is just a small sample of the countless treasures this city hides. A unique architectural legacy that takes us back to the Ottoman period of the city (1430 – 1912 aD). Mosques, Hamams and various administrative buildings can be found in every corner of this multicultural urban center.
Alaca Imaret was built by Ishak Pasha, the Grand Vizer and Governor of the city in 1484 aD. The dedicatory inscription can still be found at the entrance of the building offering detailed information to the visitors about the mosque and its creator.
Throughout the centuries it was used as a mosque, a hieratical school (Medrese) and an imaret, a kind of public charity kitchen. During the 17th century it was considered one of the most prominent landmarks of the city, next to Rotonda and Bey Hamam.
The main hall of the building is being covered with two main domes that were decorated with exquisite paintings, a small part of which is still preserved until today. Five smaller domes accompany the portico of the mosque. The surrounding rooms around the prayer hall were used for teaching and providing or serving the food.
The interior’s rich decoration was consisted of wall paintings and various relief elements in accordance with the Ottoman religious tradition. The main dome of the building remains quite impressive despite the fact that only a small portion of the original colorful paintings and motifs have been preserved.
Without a doubt, one of the most characteristic features of the building is the one of the kind minaret that was unfortunately destroyed after the city’s liberation in 1912. As a true masterpiece of the Ottoman art and architecture, the minaret was entirely covered and decorated by small colorful stones in diamond shapes (alaca) an element that possibly gave its name to the mosque.
The elaborate masonry of the building is consisted of rectangular limestone enclosed with bricks.
Discovering the forgotten Ottoman Heart
Thessaloniki is one of the most prominent destinations for every lover of Ottoman history and architecture. Several buildings and monuments reveal the city’s importance during the Ottoman reign. “Selanik” wasn’t just another city captured by them…
Its strategic value and position along with its harbor and trade routes helped the entire area grow and become one of the most important centers of the Ottoman Empire. In many cases it was considered the second after Constantinople (Istanbul) itself.
The Ottoman period deeply transformed Thessaloniki, thus influencing its culture, architecture, religion and cuisine.
Like many other Ottoman monuments Alaca Imaret hasn’t received the attention and care it deserves. Surrounded by apartment blocks, it may require some time and exploration for a non-experienced traveler to find it in Kassandrou street, minutes away from the all popular temple of Agios Dimitrios and the temple of the Twelve Apostols.
Today the building is being used for temporary exhibitions, artistic and cultural events. Although Alaca Imaret is not as famous as other tourist destinations it really is worth visiting! Many mosques in Thessaloniki haven’t received the attention they deserve as part of the city’s colorful soul… The “colorful asylum” Alaca Imaret is one of them….
Don’t miss the chance to visit Alaca Imaret even if you are short on time. You’ll have the privilege to study some really rare characteristics of the Ottoman architecture and further understand, comprehend and appreciate several aspects of the 15th century everyday life and society in Thessaloniki!
All those who spend some time to visit Alaca Imaret eventually understand its special beauty and value. Thessaloniki is beautiful for the exact same reason in the exact same way…Because of its people and their creations that still stand the test of time…
- If you are interested in discovering more about the Ottoman period of Thessaloniki, a visit to the biggest Hamam of Greece, Bey Hamam is essential.