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by Archaeology Newsroom

Thessaloniki under the Turks, the Turkish monuments

Under Turkish rule, Thessaloniki was one of the most crowded and important cities of the empire. Almost until the end of the 19th century, when the city entered the phase of development and modernization, Thessaloniki did not expand outside its walls. Thus, building activities were limited. Consequently the changes in the city ‘s form covered only the emergencies created by successive fires. The three communities forming the population of the city, each with its specific character,resided in their own quarters in different areas and had their own educational, charitable and commercial institutions. The Turks inhabited the upper city, the most beautiful and spacious area. The Greeks the Southeast segment, the Jews the densely populated neighborhoods of the central and lower west side of the city. The Turkish administration had the intention,although not the ability, to impress on the distribution of land and on the form of the buildings a strictly arranged social system by controlling even the height or the colouring of the houses or the restoration and embellishment of the churches. The commercial centre was located in the southwestern area, where each guild had its own quarters, while the administrative Centre was located in the upper city, occupying almost the same place as the Byzantine town centre around the “Konaki” which was the seat of the Vali in Thessaloniki. During all these centuries of building anarchy, the ancient “layout” of the streets did not disappear and thus many modern avenues were opened in the old traces. The walls underwent many restorations and their gates were modified, but their outline and form, that of the Byzantine period, were preserved almost until 1870 when certain parts were demolished. The city included numerous Turkish buildings of religious and charitable character, while after the mid-19thcentury, monumental edifices were erected reflecting the influence of the European architecture. A number of djamis have been preserved, such as the Hamza Bey Camii of 1467 – 68, the Alaca Imaret Camii of 1484, the Yeni Camii of the early 20th century, as well as other public buildings, such as the Bay Hamam, an impressive double bath of the mid 15th century, an inn and some fountains in the upper city; there also stands the characteristic Turkish house of the 19th century where the great leader Kemal Atatürk was born, and finally the Bedesten, a large, rectangular, vaulted stone-built edifice, once the very Centre of the marketplace, where even today certain shops are housed. Most of the buildings mentioned so far were built during the first two centuries following the Turkish occupation, in the period of early Ottoman architecture or in its classical phase. Of course, they cannot compete in size, quality and decoration with the buildings of Constantinople and the other important Centres, especially since in the case of Thessaloniki, the most important djamis were but altered old Christian churches (Rotonda, Acheropoietos, Hagios Demetrios, Hagia Sophia). Nevertheless, they serve as notable examples of provincial architecture and they eloquently speak of the historic part of the city.