- Arch and Tomb of Galerius
The Arch of Galerius (Modern Greek: τόξοτουΓαλερίου "or" AψίδατουΓαλερίου) and the Tomb of Galerius (ΤάφοςτουΓαλερίου) are neighboring monuments in the city of
Thessaloniki, in the province of Central Macedoniain northern Greece. The Tomb of Galerius is better known as the Rotunda, the Church of Agios Georgios or (in English) the Rotunda of St. George.
The 4th century
Roman Emperor Galeriuscommissioned these two structures as elements of an imperial precinct linked to his Thessaloniki palace, substantial remains of which were found to the southwest. [The palace of Galerius was built on a massive scale using primarily local materials, perhaps over the destruction layer of a fire that cleared an area for the complex. Expansive areas of mosaic are preserved in several areas. A structure linked to the palace and called the Octagonal Room is at the southwest end of the excavated area at 40°37'48.53"N, 22°56'55.99"E; this was thought at one point to be a mausoleum, but may have actually been a monumental entryway to the palace. Beside the palace to the northeast was a Hippodrome.] These three monuments were connected by a road that ran through the arch, which also straddled the major east-west road of the city. By sitting at the crux of these major axes, the Arch of Galerius emphasized the power of the emperor and linked his assembly of monumental structures with the fabric of 4th century Thessaloniki. The arch was composed of a masonry core faced with marble sculptural panels celebrating a victory over the Sassanid Persians. Less than half of the arch is preserved. The Rotunda was a massive circular structure with a masonry core that had an oculuslike the Pantheon in Rome. It has gone through multiple periods of use and modification as a polytheist temple, a Christian basilica, a Muslim mosque, and again a Christian church (and archaeological site). A minaret is preserved from its use as a mosque, and there are ancient remains exposed on its southern side.
Arch of Galerius
Location and description of the Arch
The Arch of Galerius, (Modern Greek: Καμάρα) stands on what is now Dimitrios Gounari Street. The arch was built in 298 to 299 CE and dedicated in 303 CE to celebrate the victory of the tetrarch
Galeriusover the Sassanid Persians and capture of their capital Ctesiphonin 298. [ At this point Galerius was a "Caesar" (subordinate emperor); he became one of the two "Augusti" (head emperors) in 305 CE, when Diocletianabdicated.] The structure was an octopylon (eight-pillared gateway) forming a tripe arch that was built of a rubble masonry core faced first with brick and then with marble panels with sculptural relief. The central arched opening was 9.7 m wide and 12.5 m high and the secondary openings on other side were 4.8 m wide and 6.5 m high. The central arch spanned the portion of the " Via Egnatia" (primary east-west Roman road from Dyrrhacium to Byzantium) that passed through the city as a "Decumanus" (east-west major street). A road connecting the Rotunda (125m northeast) with the Palace complex (235m southwest) passed through the arch along its long axis. At present, only the northwestern three of the eight pillars and parts of the masonrycores of the arches above survive: i.e. the entire eastern side (4 pillars) and the southernmost one of the western pillars are lost. [ The other parts of the structure were destroyed at an unknown date, probably during one of many earthquakes which have damaged Thessalonika throughout its history. ] Extensive consolidation with modern brick has been performed on the exposed masonry cores to protect the monument. The two pillars flanking the central arched passageway retain their sculpted marbleslabs, which depict the wars of Galerius against the Persians in broadly panegyric terms.
culptural program of the Arch
Understanding of the sculptural program of the arch is necessarily limited by the loss of the majority of the marble panels, but what remains gives an impression of the whole. There were four vertically stacked registers of sculpted decoration on each pillar, each separated by elaborate moldings. The presence of a label for the
Tigris riverindicates that there were likely labels on others representations as the builders deemed necessary. It is clear that a certain degree of artistic license was taken in the representations, since the Caesar Galerius is shown in personal combat with the Sassanid Shah Narses in one of the panels; in fact, they never met in battle. The panel on the arch has a mounted Galerius attacking a similarly mounted Narses with a lance as an eagle flies down upon Galerius bearing a victory wreath in its talons. The Caesar sits securely on his rearing horse, while the Persian king appears at the point of being unhorsed. Terrified Persians cower under the hooves of the Caesar’s horse in the chaos of battle. The message of the panel is a competence and power of the Caesar Galerius.
The relief of the imperial family conjoined in a sacrifice of thanksgiving owes its distant prototype to the Augustan reliefs on the
Ara Pacisin Rome. The presence at his side of Galerius' wife, Diocletian's daughter Valeria, served to authenticate his links to his predessor. Here as elsewhere all the faces have been carefully chiselled off, whether as " damnatio memoriae" or in Christian intolerance of images.
In another panel, the tetrarchs are all arrayed in the toga as a "Victoria" holds a victory wreath out to the heads of the two "Augusti". A third panel celebrates the unity and strength of the
tetrarchywith a depiction of the tetrarchs standing in unison; the depersonalized manner in which the tetrarchs are portrayed is reminiscent of the schematic statues of the tetrarchs in porphyry at St. Mark's Basilicain Venice. In this instance, only Galerius is dressed in armor, and he makes the offering upon the altar.
More than simply depicting the victory of the Caesar Galerius, what remains of the arch asserts the glory of the tetrarchy and the prominence of Galerius within that system. The arch celebrates the relevance to the Roman Empire as a whole of Galerius’ victory over the Sassanid king.
Rotunda of Galerius
Location and description of the Rotunda
Infobox World Heritage Site
Name = Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika Rotunda of St. George
State_Party = GRE
Type = Cultural
Criteria = i, ii, iv
ID = 456
Region = Europe and North America
Coordinates = coord|40|37|N|22|57|E
Year = 1988
Session = 12th
The Rotunda of Galerius is 125m northeast of the Arch of Galerius at 40°37'59.77"N, 22°57'9.77"E. It is now the Greek Orthodox Church of Agios Georgios, better known as the Church of the Rotunda (or simply "The Rotunda"). The cylindrical structure was built in 306 on the orders of the tetrarch Galerius, who was thought to have intended it to be his
mausoleum. It was more likely intended as a temple; it is not known to what god it would have been dedicated.
The Rotunda has a diameter of 24.5 m. Its walls are more than 6 m thick, which is one reason why it has withstood Thessalonika's earthquakes. The walls are interrupted by eight rectangular bays, with the south bay forming the entrance. A flat brick dome, 30 m high at the peak, crowns the cylindrical structure. In its original design, the dome of the Rotunda had an oculus like the Pantheon in Rome.
Uses of the Rotunda
After Galerius's death in 311 (he was buried at Gamzigrad/Felix Romuliana near Zajecar), however, the structure stood empty until the Emperor
Constantine Iordered it converted into a Christian church in the 4th century. The church was embellished with very high artistic quality mosaics. Only fragments survived of the original decoration, for example a band depicting saints with hands raised in prayer, in front of complex architectural phantasies.
The building functioned as a church for over 1,200 years until the city fell to the Ottomans. In 1590 it was then converted into a
mosque, the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi, and a minaretwas added to the structure. It remained a mosque until 1912, when the Greeks captured the city during the Balkan War. It was then formally re-consecrated into a church, but the minaret was not demolished. The structure was damaged during an earthquake in 1978 but was subsequently restored. As of 2004, the minaret was still being stabilized with scaffolding. The building is now a historical monument under the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquitiesof the Greek Ministry of Culturethough the Greek Orthodox Church tries to reclaim it back for Orthodoxy every so often.
The Rotunda is the oldest of Thessalonika's churches, and some publications in Greece claim that it is the oldest Christian church in the world, although there are a number of other claimants to that title. It is certainly the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period of the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.
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List of Roman domes
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