Near the east city wall in the Upper Town, between Irodotou and Apostolou Pavlou Streets, the Church of St Nicholas Orphanos stands in its own walled precinct. A dependency of Blatadon Monastery, under the direct jurisdiction of the Patriarchate, it was once the katholikon of a monastery. Remains of the monastery's gateway survive towards Irodotou Street.

The name "St Nicholas Orphanos" and "St Nicholas of the Orphanoi" or "of the Orphans" is found in seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century sources and has been associated either with the unknown founder of the church and his family or with the fact that St. Nicholas is the patron saint of widows and orphans. The monument and its paintings are probably contemporary, the latter being dated to 1310-20.

Today the church is an aisleless timber-roofed structure with an ambulatory terminating in two chapels at the east end. The masonry consists of irregular courses of brick and stone, with some decorative brickwork at the east end. Inside, access between the central space and the north and south ambulatory is through double arched openings adorned with painted Theodosian capitals. The painted marble sanctuary screen is contemporary with the church. There are several tombs under the ambulatory floor.

The outstanding frescowork is one of the most fully preserved ensembles in the city. In the naos are scenes from the Great Feasts, Passion, Resurrection, and liturgical cycles and figures of saints; scenes from the Akathistos Hymn adorn the north ambulatory, the life of St Nicholas and menologies the west, and some of Christ's miracles, the prefigurations of the Virgin, and the life of St. Gerasimos of Jordan the south. The narrative scenes are vivid and lively, while the Passion scenes are filled with dramatic tension. The isolated figures stand out for their solid bulk, their delicate features, and their wealth of colour. These paintings are works of the mature Palaiologan renaissance and show connections with the artistic milieu of the Thessalonian painters George Kallierg.es, Michael Astrapas, and Eutychios. They were probably painted by the artist who frescoed the katholikon of Hilandar, the Serbian monastery on Mount Athos, in the reign of the Serbian King Milutin (1314).

The depiction in the naos of St. George, patron saint of the Milutin family, and of St. Kliment of Ohrid (both popular subjects in Serbian religious painting), when taken together with the Serbian ruler's connection with Thessaloniki and with the family of Emperor Andronikos II, strongly suggests that Milutin financed the decoration of the church; and this further underlines Thessaloniki's prominent role in the art of the Balkans.

The monastery continued to operate during the Ottoman period. The frescoes were discovered in 1957-60 during restoration work on the church.

Church of Nicholas Orphanos
Church of Nicholas Orphanos
Church of Nicholas Orphanos
Church of Nicholas Orphanos
Church of Nicholas Orphanos