About a millennium later, the Ottoman Turk conquered Thessaloniki. One after another the churches of the city were converted into mosques. In 1591, it was the time of the Rotonda to follow this trend. In the yard surrounding the Rotonda, a minaret was added along with a fountain for the Muslim to wash themselves before prayer.
This minaret is the last one currently standing in Thessaloniki today. In 1912, Thessaloniki was liberated by the Greek army and soon afterwards the mosques of the city were re-converted to churches once more. In the meantime, two dozen minarets were destroyed giving a heavy blow to the city’s Ottoman tradition.
The main reason as to why this minaret survived, my conclusion is that it was due to the usage of the premises of the Rotonda by the French army during WWI.
Let me explain. During WWI, more than 100.000 allied troops were camped in Thessaloniki. Along the soldier, a number of academic personnel was established in Thessaloniki and the French were using the premises of the Rotonda to collect antiquities. In fear of losing these treasures, the Greek proclaimed the Rotonda into an archeological site and kept the French from stealing the antiquities.
To this conclusion, I’m aided by the fact that during the same period of time, the British were using the White tower as a center to collect antiquities. The White Tower, however, was not proclaimed into an archeological site in time and now, if you visit the British museum, next to the antiquities that were stolen by the British you will find the antiquities of Thessaloniki.
One of the sad side effects, however, of all these conversions and reconstructions, is that the beautiful decoration from the pagan and Christian time are no more. During the Ottoman era, the decorations were either transferred to the city’s hamams or they were covered by a thick layer of plaster because the representation of the divine is not allowed in Muslim religion. When the time came to reveal the decorations centuries later, the frescoes and mosaics were destroyed along with the plaster.