Although an Orthodox Christian, I love visiting Catholic churches and admiring their unique beauty. The Catholic parish in Thessaloniki, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, has a rich history. It is located in “Fragomachalas” (the neighborhood of the “Franks”), a word that originally refers to an early medieval Germanic tribe and that the Greeks used to express their hatred of Europeans. The current building was constructed in 1900 according to the design of the prominent Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli, who embellished our city with monuments of exceptional beauty and replaced an earlier 18th-century Jesuit church, which had burnt down.
Roman Catholic orders have a long presence in Thessaloniki. The most important of them was the order of St. Vincent de Paul, which founded a convent in a western quartier of the city – “Moni Lazariston”, now a complex that hosts cultural events.
Regarding the church itself, the interior decoration looks rather austere but nevertheless interesting. The most wonderful part is the central apse. Above the altar, there is an imposing statue of the Virgin inspired by Apocalypse 12:1 (the last book of the Bible). The Queen of Heaven opens her arms to embrace everyone. What really impressed me, when I visited the church about a decade ago (back then I was not very familiar with Catholicism), was the presence of Orthodox icons!