The Museum of Byzantine culture in Thessaloniki is one of the best ones in whole Greece. While walking in its halls you can experience all the period of formation and rise of the Byzantine Empire.
The idea of creating the museum has been about to occur since the beginning of the XX century. The governor of the Central Macedonia Stefanos Dragoumis issued an ordinance according to which the Central Byzantine Museum appeared in Thessaloniki. Unfortunately, the red ribbon had never being cut, so the museum had left only on paper. Later there were some other things to worry about — the two world wars happened during which all the ancient relics were evacuated to the museums of Athens. They returned to homecity only in 1994.
The problem of importance of creating a museum was raised again in 1977. At the same time, a countrywide competition of architects was declared in order to engage as many talented masters as it was possible. The winner was Kyriakos Krokos — the author of 47 architectural projects, which were realized all over Greece.
The planning of the museum was perfectly arranged. Each of the halls correlates to the previous, as if carrying the visitors to the ancient way of life, longstanding architecture, icon-painting and peculiarities of a certain time.
The first room is the “Early Christian temple”. A lot of frescoes, mosaics, sculptures and fragments of ancient temples of the V-VIII centuries are collected here. A special attention is paid to the temple of Saint Demetrios, which was built in the V century. Its arch and piers are situated here. You can also see the ambon from the basilica of Museum of Philippi (VI century), the mosaic floor from basilica that was found to the north of Taxiarchon Church in the Upper town of Thessaloniki (VI century).
The second hall is the “Early Christian city and the dwelling”. Here various aspects of economic life, handicrafts, houses and their accessories, as well as details of food and clothing are represented. The center of the hall is occupied by the reception room of the house with a mosaic floor and well-preserved wall paintings imitating marble lining. Other exhibits include amphorae that were used for selling olive oil and wine, as well as household items such as pottery, oil lamps, sewing and weaving equipment. There are a lot of jewelry here.
The third room is more gloomy and mysterious. It is called "From the Champs Elysees to the Christian Paradise". There are tombs with paintings from the East of Thessaloniki (Axios burial complex) and Western cemeteries, epitaphs, sepulchres, statues and sculptures, as well as glassware and decorations from burial sites. Thanks to these findings, you can learn a lot about the funerary traditions and grave architecture of the early Christian period.
In the fourth room, we plunge into the Middle Byzantine period called "From the iconoclasm to the prime of the Macedonians and Comneni." Here you can find many exhibits related to the formation of Christianity as a religion — the first icons, lead seals and coins, chronicles, etc.
The fifth hall — "The Byzantine emperors dynasties" — is dedicated to the great rulers. The Imperial dynasties of Byzantium are represented in chronological order from Heraclius (610–641) to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The coins and marble inscriptions, which were made in Thessaloniki during the reign of emperors Leon VI and Alexander, are exposed at the exhibition.
Next is the hall named “The Byzantine fortress”. Archaeological exhibits and information are used to demonstrate how the castle was organized and to recreate a picture of everyday life inside and outside its walls. There is also a video booth showing a 15–minute video about the castles of Macedonia and Thrace.
The seventh hall is called “Twilight of Byzantium”. It covers the time between the two conquests of Constantinople — 1204 (the Latins) and 1453 (the Ottoman–Turks).
In the tenth hall — "Byzantium after Byzantium" — you can see how the usual way of life has changed.
The eleventh room represents the latest results of the excavations on the territory of the city.
The last two rooms show the collection of Dora Papastratu, a collection with many Orthodox religious engravings and the collection of Dimitris Economopoulos, which consists of portable icons dating back to the XIV–XVIII centuries, crosses and other items of religious rite.
The museum often hosts periodic exhibitions and other cultural events dedicated to the Byzantine heritage of Northern Greece.
The museum is open to all: there are special excursions for schoolchildren considering the interests of the children of different ages, and there is a special audio-tactile tour for people with the eyesight problems. This is a rather new and progressive innovation that allows visually-impaired people to touch the history in the literal sense accompanied by an audio-guide in Russian, Greek, English or German.
The museum is located in the center, on Leoforos Stratou street, just behind the Archaeological museum. You can walk there from the center on foot or go by buses following the routes No. 3, 10, 11, 12, 31 and 39.