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Byzantium in Greece today
Must-see monuments and sights
By Giorgos Panagiotakis

The co-reigning city
Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Constantinople. This glamour is reflected in the imposing castle and the towering regional walls emerging through the residential fabric. One of the oldest monuments is the Rotunda. The circular structure was built in 306 AD as a temple to Zeus and was soon turned into a Christian church. A few centuries later, the foundations for St. Demetrius were laid, a Christian Orthodox church which was destroyed in the 1917 fire, but was restored and is still running. Other very significant Byzantine monuments and temples are Acheropoietos (5th century), Agia Sophia (7th century) and Panagia Chalkeon (11th century). The latter is located in a central quarter of the city where the copper workshops have been situated since the Byzantine period.

A point of reference
In Athens, Byzantine revelations begin from its most commercial street, Ermou Street, which is literally cut in the middle by Kapnikarea, a thousand year old church which is a favourite meeting point for Athenians. In the shadow of the Acropolis, there is a multitude of small Byzantine churches scattered among the alleys. One is the Old Metropolitan Cathedral (Agios Eleftherios), a miniature church of the 12th century located next to the – comparatively enormous – New Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built with ancient reliefs. In the wider region of Athens there are two authentic Byzantine monasteries, those of Kaisariani and Daphni. The latter was founded in the 6th century, on the site of an ancient temple of Apollo.