The laity at church

The Byzantine landscape, whether urban or rural, was marked by ecclesiastical structures of varying size, shape and purpose. Within the city, the laity had access to large-scale metropolitan churches, which often retained the architectural form of the venerable basilicas constructed in the early centuries of the empire. Judging from the size of the medieval basilicas that still stand in Berroia, Kalambaka, Servia, Ohrid and Edessa (medieval Vodena), as well as in other large and small Byzantine cities, hundreds of parishioners could have been accommodated within the body of a single church. These buildings provide us the spatial context in which to imagine the powerful sermons of such figures as Gregory Palamas, who, as bishop of Thessalonike (1347-59), brought the city's residents to the heights of religious fervour. In addition, Byzantine cities were marked by dozens of other religious structures, which also provided the laity with access to sacred rite and space. Larger cities would have had a number of parish churches to accommodate weekly services as well as special rites. Around 1405, a Russian pilgrim recorded the names of Thessalonike's parish churches as 'St. Sophia the Metropolis, Acheiropoietos

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