Hamza Bey Mosque (or Alkazar)

29Jun

The Hamza Bey Mosque, which is located in front of Caravan Serai, in the corner of Venizelou and Egnatia streets, is widely known to the citizens of Thessaloniki as Alkazar. It was built in 1467 (the era of Sultan Murad II) and was named after the daughter of the military commander Hamza Bey, Hafsa Hatun. Its initial purpose was to be used as Metzit, i.e a small local mosque without minaret. It is speculated that a nunnery existed there, a tradition which was respected by the Ottomans after the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul), building a mosque with woman founder.

The Hamza Bey Mosque is the oldest surviving Islamic worship place built in Thessaloniki. It is now considered the largest surviving mosque situated in Greek territory and spans a total area of 1150 sq/m. It is also the only Mosque in the Balkans that has a patio, with the exception of the mosques of Edirne and Istanbul.

The building stopped being used as a mosque several years after the liberation of Thessaloniki from the Turkish occupation in 1923 and the population exchange between Turkey and Greece was completed. It was declared listed in May 1926 and in 1928 it was rented to shops and later to Alkazar cinema. Finally, in 2006, archaeologists began the monument restoration that still continues today.