Sunday, 25 July 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
57, The Rotunda, Thessaloniki

The Rotunda is the oldest church in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Eighth Sunday after Trinity. Later this morning, I am leading Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, and presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This week’s theme is seven churches in Thessaloniki. Earlier in this series, I visited Vlatadon Monastery in the hills above Thessaloniki (29 April 2021). This morning (25 July 2021), my photographs from the Rotunda in Thessaloniki.

Inside the Rotunda in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Rotunda is the oldest church in Thessaloniki, and some Greek sources claim this is the oldest Christian church in the world, although there are competitors for that title. It is the most important surviving example of a church from the early Christian period in the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.

The Rotunda, which is close to the Arch of Galerius is, built by the Emperor Galerius as his future mausoleum. But he died in Serbia, he was never buried here, and the Rotunda stood empty for several decades.

The Emperor Theodosius I ordered the conversion of the Rotunda into the Church of Asomaton or Archangelon in the late fourth century. The church has eight barrel-vaulted niches and was decorated with high quality mosaics. Some fragments of the frescoes and mosaics survive.

After the city fell to the Ottomans, it was converted into the Mosque of Suleyman Hortaji Effendi in 1590, and a minaret was added to the building. It continued to be used as a mosque until 1912, when Thessaloniki was incorporated into the modern Greek state.

The Rotunda was reconsecrated as the Church of Aghios Georgios (Saint George), although the Ottoman minaret was left standing. The building was damaged in the 1978 earthquake, and has restored once again.

It is now an historical monument under the Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture, and the Greek Orthodox Church continues to use it for festivities on some days during the year.

The dome inside the Rotunda (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 1-21 (NRSVA):

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

Some fragments of the mosaics in the Rotunda depict peacocks, an early symbol of the Resurrection (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 July 2021) invites us to pray:


Almighty Lord,
May we rejoice in Your name.
Fill our mouths with laughter,
And our tongues with shouts of joy.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Rotunda is close to the Arch of Galerius and was built by the Emperor Galerius as his future mausoleum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Rotunda seen through narrow streets in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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