Host Country Studies Trip to Eptapyrgio Fort, Trigonion Tower and Church of St. Nikolaos Orphanos

It was a very cold, windy Tuesday morning when Pinewood Middle School students were taken on a tour of “Ano Poli,” in other words, the Acropolis of Thessaloniki. Our plan was to visit the Eptapyrgio Fort first. That’s where our special guide, Ms Stavroula Tzevreni, a Byzantinologist working for the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, started her very informative tour. It was interesting to see how the Fort was built, how masterfully bricks were used for decoration, and finally, how sturdy and powerful everything looked. We were especially intrigued by the Fort’s long history, particularly how in the late 19th century the Fort was converted into a prison, known by its Turkish name – Yedi Kule.
Our second stop was at the Trigonion Tower on the North-Eastern side of Thessaloniki. It was through this point that the Turks breached the defenses of the city in 1430. Immediately afterwards, in the mid-15th century, the Ottomans replaced the Byzantine Trigonio Tower, incorporating the latter in its construction. The new Tower was built in order to deal with the new war technique of using firearms and its entire design serves this purpose. It was really interesting to see how the Tower was built, how thick the walls were, how its rooftop could effectively be used as surveillance terrace of the surrounding area and how masterfully the archaeologists of the 9th Ephorate restored it to its original glory.
Our trip ended in the Church of Saint Nikolaos Orphanos. The church dates from the second decade of the 14th century. It was the catholicon of a monastery, and it is referred to under the name Saint Nikolaos Orphanos, or ‘ton Orphanon’, in a codex dated 1745. These names may refer to the founder, or to the charitable work done by the patron of the church with orphans and widows. The church is beautifully decorated with frescoes presenting stories from the life and miracles of Christ, Saint Nikolaos, and Saint Gersimos. These frescoes, dating around 1310-1320, are considered unique examples of the Palaeologean Renaissance style.

Amalia Spiliakou

Host Country Studies Coordinator