Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/376

This page needs to be proofread.


BASILICI


326


BASILIDES


indicates the Eastern origin of the building, but it is in the West, above all "in Rome, that the finest examples of the basilica are found. Between 1S4 and 121 b. c. there were built in the Forum at Rome the basiUcas of Porcia. Fuh-ia, Sempronia, and Opimia; after 46 B. c. the great BasiHca Juha of Csesar and Augustus was erected. These buildings were designed to beautify the Forum and to be of use both for market purposes and for the adminis- tration of justice. They were open to the public and were well lighted. According to 'S'itruvius. who in tliis certainly agrees with Greek authorities, the usual construction of a basilica was the following: — •

The ground plan was a parallelogram in wliich the width was not greater than one-half of the length and not less than one-third of it. When there was more space in the length, porticoes were built on the short sides. The middle space was separated by columns from a lower ambulatorj' or portico; the •n-idth of the ambulatorj' equalled the height of the columns and measured one-third of the width of the central space. Above the columns just mentioned stood others, giving entrance to light, which were shorter and slighter, in order that, as in organic structures, a tapering effect upwards should be given (iSe architectura. V, i, or ii). A basilica erected by Vitru\'ius himself showed a decided variation from tills plan. It had two ambulatories, one above the other. Part of the columns of the middle space was left free so that light might enter. These columns rose up to the rafters. Pilasters leaning against the col- umns served to carry the flat roof of the ambulatories. The length of the middle nave was double its breadth and six times the breadth of the ambulaton,'. One of the long sides of the parallelogram spread out into an apse where legal cases were tried, but it was separated by the width of the ambulatory from the space for merchants (the ancient exchange).

The same writer speaks (VI, ^-iii or v) of half- public basihcas in the houses of distinguished states- men which ser\-ed as coimcil-chambers and for the settlement of disputes by arbitration. Vitruvius compares these (VI, v or iii) with the Egj-ptian halls because the latter had also covered ambulatories around a middle space supported by columns and openings for hght between columns above. These are the distinctive features of a basilica which we may venture to define as an oblong structure with columns. ha\Tng an ambulatorj* of lower height, re- ceiWng hght from above, and possessing a projecting addition designed to serve a particular purpose.

The form of the basilica of the early Christian Church corresponds so exactly to the shape of the basilica of the Forum or of the house that it does not seem necessarj" to seek another model, as for instance, the atrium or the cemeterj' cells. The dark, nar- row temple was entirely imsuited for the holding of the Christian church ser\'ices. These services, which began with the Last Supper, were often held in large rooms in the dwellings of prosperous Chris- tians. When these facts are considered it cannot be a matter of surprise that as early as the time of Constantine the style and name of the basiUca seem to have oeen in common use for the Christian place of worship. Sloreover, the chief de^^ations from the general tj^pe of the ancient basiUca, such as five aisles, pillars, angular form of the apse, omission of the portico, etc., have been used as well in the Christian basihca to which the original meaning of the word basilica, "the hall of the king", could now again be applied.

As a rule, the building at this time was di\-ided into three parts by columns, the well-Ughted central part rose higher than the other divisions, and there was an apse. Only, in place of the former surround- ing portico, or ambulatory, there was a side aisle to the right and left. There were also basiUcas


with five and seven aisles. The old construction of the basihca with an apse was well suited to the service of the altar. A transept extending more or less towards both sides was often placed between the nave and the apse both to serve practical needs and on account of its sj-mboUsm. The roofing of the


Basilica of Constantix


transept together with the apse and portico pro- duced variety in the exterior of the basihca. Vault- ing, in the West, was used only at times in the side aisles; nothing beyond a fiat roof was ventured upon for the verj' broad middle nave, and often, at the beginning, the rafters of the roof were left uncov- ered.

It was only after the fifth century that round or square side-towers came into use. These towers were first incorporated in the main building in Syria. The early Cliristian basilica showed a high, yet hght construction, and was roomy and well hghted. The arcades with slender columns which led up to the altar were a particularly beautiful feature. The round form of the arches, of the window-heads, and the ground plan of the basihca were the first indications of the Romanesque stj'le. The idea of a room in which the Kng of Kings gave audience naturally led to rich ornamentation. The back wall of the apse and the "arch of triumph", which opened into the tran- sept, were decorated with mosaics. The altar stood in or before, the apse under a decorated baldacchino (ciborium). Tiie walls were often adorned with pictures, and the floor was made of mosaic. Much use was made in the rich churches of beautiful woven stuffs and of fine goldsmith-work. If the emploj-ment of these symbols had a tendency to inspire pride, other observances produced humility of mind, as, for example, the symbolic washing at the fountain. G. Gietmanx.

Basilic! Libri. See Rom-Vn- L.\w.

Basilides, the earliest of the Alexandrian Gnos- tics; he was a native of Alexandria and flourished under the Emperors Adrian and Antoninus Pius, about 120-140. St. Epiphanius's assertion that he was a disciple of Menander at Antioch and only later moved to Alexandria is unlikely in face of the state- ment of Eusebius and Theodoret that he was an Alexandrian by birth. Of his hfe we know nothing except that he" had a son called Isidore, who followed in his footsteps. The remark in the Acts of Arche- laus (Iv) that Basilides was "a preacher amongst the Persians" is almost certainly the result of some confusion. Basilides invented prophets for himself named Barcabbas and Barcoph, and claimed to have received verbal instructions from St. Matthias the Apostle and to be a disciple of Glaucias, a disciple of St. Peter.