Mosaic of Christ in Majesty at Hosios David, Thessaloniki
I’d like to dedicate the next few posts to my brother David, in Canada who will shortly be celebrating his 70th birthday. This will only be a matter of weeks after my nephew Joe marries Yasmin, so it’s a momentous time for the Canadian Sharps.
Reflecting on our icon diploma trip to Thessaloniki in 2015, one place remains firmly in my mind – Hosios David; Hosios/Osios is the title used for a monastic male saint in Greek. This was the first place we visited, climbing up the hill, looking out over the city and sea, then finding it was closed!
Janina, Keith and Susan climbing the streets of Thessaloniki
The church is dedicated to St David, one of the patron saints of Thessaloniki, a 6th century Dendrite or ‘tree dweller’ and renowned ‘holy fool’.
Thessaloniki has a lot of happy memories for our family. We first heard about it when David drove his new Hillman overland from UK to Bahrain with Mum in 1975, forty years before our diploma trip. We lived in Bahrain for a few years and David taught at Gulf Technical College.
Long road ahead
David’s car on a dhow with Mum to the left
David keeping a hand on steering
David in 1975
Mum in 1975
Entrance to the church of St David the Dendrite of Thessaloniki
We went back to Hosios David later in the week and this time we went inside this late 5th century church which has a full mosaic of the vision of Ezekiel made in the late fifth/early sixth century.
St David the Dendrite came from Mesopotamia and became a monk at the Monastery of Saints Merkourios and Theodore outside Thessaloniki.
From Wikipedia he was: ‘Famed for his sound advice, he was hounded by crowds seeking words of wisdom and prayer. Wishing a quiet, contemplative life, David fled to the seclusion of an almond tree, where he lived for three years. He left the tree to petition the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great in Constantinople to send soldiers to defend Thessaloniki from attack. David died in 540 as his ship was en route to Macedonia.’
Hokku writes: ‘After that time, an angel appeared to him (David), saying that God had heard his prayers, but that it was time for David to climb down and live in a monastic cell like other monks. Because of his eccentric asceticism, David gained a local reputation as a holy man and healer, and was visited by many people seeking his help.’
The church is full of wonderful mosaics and frescos. The lighting was low but here are a few photos.
First glimpse of the 5-6th C mosaic in the apse with an icon of St David the Dendrite at the right
Sketch of the mosaic of the ‘Beardless Christ’ in the apse of Hosios David
Detail of a fresco of the nativity
Glimpse of mosaic in the apse, St David’s church, Thessaloniki
St David is commemorated on June 26 by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church on July 17.
To be continued…
Thanks for reading