Another Byzantine gem in Ano Poli (Upper City) is the Church of Prophet Elijah. As usual, its initial dedication is unknown, however, the plan type clearly alludes to a monastery church. After the liberation of Thessaloniki from the Ottomans in 1912 it was dedicated to the aforementioned Prophet, because its Ottoman name (as a mosque), Sarayli camii, was similar to the Greek version of Elijah (Elias or Lias).
The building was perhaps built in the middle or in the second half of the 14th century. That period was characterized by unprecedented artistic flourishing in the city. In the narthex, there are beautiful frescoes that depict Saints and biblical scenes, such as the massacre of the holy innocents. That representation seems to be a deliberate choice because in 1387 Thessaloniki was captured for the first time by the Ottomans, who forcibly seized young boys from Christian families and forced them to convert to Islam. For this reason, that church is so special to me. It’s a place of memory, where I reflect on the trials our ancestors faced. From a stylistic point of view, the figures, especially their faces, are so innovative, that allude to Italian Trecento painting.