Explore The northern mainland
The heavily restored eighth-century church of Ayía Sofía is the finest of its kind in the city. Modelled on its more illustrious namesake in Constantinople, it replaced an older basilica, the only trace of which remains a few paces south: the below-street-level holy well of John the Baptist, originally a Roman nymphaeum (sacred fountain). Ayía Sofía’s dome, 10m in diameter, bears a splendid mosaic of the Ascension, for which you’ll need binoculars. Christ, borne up to the heavens by two angels, sits resplendent on a rainbow throne, right hand extended in blessing; below, a wry inscription quotes Acts 1:11: “Ye men of galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” The whole is ringed by fifteen figures: the Virgin attended by two angels, and the twelve Apostles reacting to the miracle. The dome was restored late in the 1980s; the rest of the interior decoration was plastered over after the 1917 fire.