26.03.2016 - Comments Off on Shedding light on the Rotunda

Shedding light on the Rotunda


“The emblematic monument of Thessaloniki, was constructed in the early 4th century AD, on the turning point between the pagan with the Christian world, probably as a temple for ancient cult worship or as a mausoleum for Constantine the Great (306-337). This circular, domed building measures 29.80 meters in height, 24.50 meters in diameter, its walls are 6.30 meters thick and can only be compared architecturally to the Pantheon in Rome. It was erected north of the Arch of Galerius, with which it was linked by a processional road.”

“Not long after it was built and during the early years of the long-lived Byzantine Empire (330-1453), the Rotunda was turned into a Christian church with the addition of a sanctuary on its eastern side. The interior was decorated with Early Byzantine (4th- 6th c. AD) wall mosaics of unique artistry and beauty. According to Byzantine texts, the church was dedicated to the Archangels. It was Thessaloniki’s cathedral church (metropolis) between 1524 and 1591, the year in which it was converted into a mosque by the ottoman conquerors. It remained in use as a mosque until the city’s liberation in 1912. Its dedication since that time to Saint George is owing to the small neighboring church of this name.

The Rotunda was luxuriously decorated with architectural reliefs and impressive mosaics cavering the imposing hemisphere dome and the vaults of the niches. The mosaics were executed at least two distinct periods between the 4th and 6th centuries. They are works of unique artistic quality, original iconography, and superb style which together with the mosaics of Rome and Ravenna are among the masterpieces of Early Christian art.

The iGuzzini lighting is separated in three zones: the first light line focuses on the vaults of the perimetrical niches, with the extremely beautiful synthesis of fruits, birds, the second on the dome with its mosaics of unique artistry and beauty, while the third sheds light on the Sanctuary, the most important —and the only surviving— architectural addition made to the Rotunda to turn it into a Christian church. The lighting enhances the architectural and visual elements of the Monument.

In the first zone it highlights the elaborate mosaic decorations in the vaults of the niches: the intersecting circles that form quatrefoils and its frame consisted of a complex geometric meshwork with small birds and ripe fruits recalling Paradise in the west vault; the large gold triumphal cross, the symbol of Christianity, in the vault of the south niche.

In the second zone the light gives prominence to the dome and its iconographic program: the golden or deep green background, the luxurious architectural compositions imitating buildings of Hellenistic and Roman architecture as well as the wall paintings of Pompeii and Rome, the handsome male figures, the four archangels flying on high holding the celestial sphere, the mythical phoenix and the rest of the decoration, are all presented in the best possible manner with the iGuzzini lighting.

In the third zone iGuzzini illuminates in an impressive way the Sanctuary –the wall painting of the Ascension in the apse dating to after the end of the Iconoclasm (842) on its east side, as well as the surviving elements of the great many ornamental interventions, that were carried out in this part of the building from Byzantine times down to the 20th century.

The Rotunda is a unique construction, a monument par excellence, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The selection of the lighting system, by iGuzzini as sponsors, and its installation was made with great respect to the history, the importance and the needs of the monument. Thus, the result is rewarding not only to all of us working on this project but also –and most importantly– to the wider public that visits the monument.”

Dr. Stamatios Th. Chondrogiannis,
Archaelogist, Director
Ephorate of Antiquities, Thessaloniki City

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