Thessaloniki: The Ottoman-era Hamza Bey Mosque (Alkazar) is being restored

Hamza Bey Mosque (Alcazar) in Thessaloniki

By 2025, the Ottoman-built Hamza Bey Mosque of Thessaloniki, also known as the Alkazar, is expected to be fully restored.

The project will be financed with 10,511,984 euros from the Recovery Fund and is part of the wider program of the Ministry of Culture and Sports for the restoration and promotion of the city's history.

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The Hamza Bey Mosque is located in the centre of Thessaloniki and is the oldest Islamic religious centre in the city. It is located at the intersection of Egnatia and Venizelou streets, and was built in 1467/1468 by the daughter of the military commander Hamza Bey.

The mosque is known to Thessalonians as Alkazar due to the cinema of the same name that was housed for several years in the peristyle courtyard of the mosque. It is protected by the Archaeological Law as a historical and archaeological monument, since 1926.

The square prayer hall of the mosque has internal dimensions of 11.54x11.54m and a maximum height of 17m. It has a lead-covered hemispherical dome, which rests on an octagonal drum.

To this were added apartments, on the north-east and south-west sides and an eccentric porch, on the north-west side and the west corner, which form a single peristoo surrounding the mosque in the shape of a P.

The apartments of the peristoo are developed parallel to the side walls of the main mosque. The atrium has a trapezoidal plan, while its arcades are defined by colonnades.

The mosque consists of three distinct units that correspond to three consecutive chronological phases of its construction: the prayer hall of the mosque, the peristoos composed of an open colonnaded portico (revak), to the west with side closed compartments, to the north and south and the atrium.

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"We are proceeding with the immediate restoration of an emblematic monument, the Hamza Bey Mosque, located in the centre of the citysaid the Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni.

"Most Thessalonians refer to the monument as the Alkazar, due to its many years of use as a cinema hall. The monument has seen many interventions, many different phases and uses, resulting in significant changes in its morphology.

"With the completion of the works, by the services of the Ministry of the Interior, the Mosque will be returned to the city, fully restored.

"The Hamza Bey mosque is part of the program of restoration and promotion of the monumental inventory of Thessaloniki, of all historical periods.

"I would like to point out that within the framework of the program of the Ministry of Health, for Thessaloniki, projects are in the stage of implementation in Achiropoiitos, in the Rotunda, in Agia Sophia, in the Panagia of Chalkea, in the churches of Agia Catherine, Agios Nikolaos the Orphan and Prophet Ilias, in the North, North-West and West Walls of the city, in the Ancient Agora, in the Sanctuary of Agios Ioannis, in Loutro Bei Hamam (Baths of Paradise) and in the monumental building of the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki."

It was damaged in later earthquakes and fires and was rebuilt in 1620, and a medrassa was added.

Following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, the mosque no longer functioned as a religious building and became the property of the National Bank of Greece.

It initially housed various military services, and although it was declared a protected monument in 1926, it was sold in 1928 to private owners. The building was subsequently used for several decades as a cinema, and suffered extensive modifications.

The mosque was handed over to the Greek Ministry of Culture in 2006, and restoration work has been under way since.

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