Byzantine Bath of Thessaloniki
A Byzantine bath (loutra), perhaps dating to the late 12th or early 13th century, is located in the Upper Town of Thessaloniki near the Palaiologan Church of Taxiarches and a Byzantine cistern. It is one of the 15 Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki that were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988. The recently restored bath of Thessaloniki is a rare example of a bath surviving from the Byzantine era and also shows Byzantine influence on Ottoman hamams.
Public baths continued to function until the end of Late Antiquity, after which large public baths were abandoned in favor of small private baths for elites. There was a revival of tradition of bath house by the 11th century, seeing the establishment of neighborhood baths houses, private bath houses for elites and even monastery baths. This is the context of the Byzantine bath in Thessaloniki. While it is the only surviving Byzantine bath in Thessaloniki today, there were many more baths during the Byzantine era. During the Ottoman era, it was known as the Kule Hamam (apparently after a tower in the area) and was adjacent a mosque and a Muslim cemetery.
As it continued to function until 1940, it underwent significantly altered over centuries of use to accommodate the bathing customs of different periods. Although it is modest in size, the different areas of the bath are clearly divided: a changing room in a small antechamber (apodyterion, similar in ways to a frigidarium), a warm room (chliaropsychrion/tepidarium), and a hot room (thermolouterion/caldarium). The final parts of the bathing process took part in the hot room, after which individuals rinsed in individual tubs. There are two doors leading from the antechamber to the warm room. Its chambers communicated with each other and the two large chambers of the hot room. There is a large dome over one of the warm rooms. The floors of the warm room and the warm room rest on the hypocausts. There is also a water reservoir with a hearth beneath it to heat the water. During the Ottoman era, it was converted into a double bath for men and women, by blocking off passageways communicating the chambers of the antechamber, warm room, and hot room. The nearby cistern originally had eight domes supported a row of three columns.
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Plan from Revithiadou and Raptis
“Restoration-Consolidation of the Byzantine Bath in Thessaloniki” by Raptis and Revithiadou
Byzantine Architecture by Cyril Mango
Architecture in the Balkans from Diocletian to Süleyman the Magnificent by Slobodan Ćurčić
Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture by Richard Krautheimer
Wandering in Byzantine Thessaloniki by Tourta and Kourkoutidou-Nikolaidou
Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan
Byzantine Bath Thessaloniki Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)
Thessaloniki Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)