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Visiting Greece /3 Thessaloniki’s Heptapyrgion

July 5, 2011

This amazing Byzantine and Ottoman fortress is located on the north-eastern edge of the ancient acropolis of Thessaloniki with a striking view over the city and its harbour. According to the meaning in both Greek and Ottoman language as “Fortress of the Seven Towers” it has been used for military purposes untill the late XIX Century and then as a prison untill 1989. Meanwhile no trace remains from the military buildings – except for the fortified shell – the conversion into prison is still evident with the watchtower in the middle of the courtyard subdivided into five separate enclosures by fences and walkways.

Restoration works began in the ’70es and continue today to accommodate an archeological museum, keeping the unique features of this building following a thoughtful and inclusive concept. Visitors are invited to walk on the guard’s paths and watch over the prison yards where the archeological findings are neatly stored. The masonry includes a large number of so-called spolia, decorative elements, stones  and inscription from different buildings, ages and culture : a compendium of urban history.

Glazing through metal grates, reading about the history of the place inside the watchtower suspended on the former prison courtyard and looking at the workers restoring some parts of the museum complex are some of the experiences that we had in the Heptapyrgion thanks to Kleopatra Theologidou who kindly showed us this relatively unknown archeological and architectural jewel.

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