Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

in any church (fig. 17). The design of the somewhat later and smaller church of S. Apollinare in Classe, A.D. 538-549, measuring 216 ft. by 104 ft., is so similar that they must have proceeded from the same architect (Agincourt, pl lxxiii. No. 35).

Basilica 17.png
Fig. 17.—Arches of S.
Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna.

The cathedral on the island of Torcello near Venice, originally built in the 7th century, but largely repaired c. A.D. 1000, deserves special attention from the fact that it preserves, in a more perfect state than can be seen elsewhere, the arrangements of the seats in the apse (fig. 18). The bishop's throne occupies the centre of the arc, approached by a steep flight of steps. Six rows of stone benches for the presbyters, rising one above another like the seats in a theatre, follow the curve on either side—the whole being singularly plain and almost rude. The altar stands on a platform; the sanctuary is divided from the nave by a screen of six pillars. The walls of the apse are inlaid with plates of marble. The church is 125 ft. by 75 ft. The narrow aisles are only 7 ft. in width.

Basilica 18.png
Fig. 18.—Apse of Basilica, Torcello, with Bishop's throne
and seats for the clergy.
(From a drawing by Lady Palgrave.)

Another very remarkable basilica, less known than it deserves to be, is that of Parenzo in Istria, c. A.D. 542. Few basilicas have sustained so little alteration. From the annexed ground-plan (fig. 19) it will be seen that it retains its atrium and a baptistery, square without, octagonal within, to the west of it. Nine pillars divide each aisle from the nave, some of them borrowed from earlier buildings. The capitals are Byzantine. The choir occupies the three easternmost bays. The apse, as at Torcello, retains the bishop's throne and the bench for the presbyters apparently unaltered. The mosaics are singularly gorgeous, and the apse walls, as at Torcello, are inlaid with rich marble and mother-of-pearl. The dimensions are small—121 ft. by 32 ft. (See Kunstdenkmale des osterreichischen Kaiserreichs, by Dr G. Heider and others.)

Basilica 19.png
Fig. 19.—Ground-Plan of Cathedral of Parenzo, Istria.
a, Cloistered atrium.  d, Chorus cantorum.  h, Belfry.
+, Narthex.   e, Altar.   i, Chapel of St Andrew.
b, Nave.        f, Bishop's throne.
c, c, Aisles.   g, Baptistery.

In the Eastern church, though the erection of St Sophia at Constantinople introduced a new type which almost entirely superseded the old one, the basilican form, or as it was then termed dromical, from its shape being that of a race-course (dromos), was originally as much the rule as in the West. The earliest church of which we have any clear account, that of Paulinus at Tyre, A.D. 313-322, described by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. x. 4 § 37), was evidently basilican, with galleries over the aisles, and had an atrium in front. That erected by Constantine at Jerusalem, on the side of the Holy Sepulchre, 333, followed the same plan (Euseb., Vit. Const. iii. c. 29), as did the original churches of St Sophia and of the Apostles at Constantinople. Both these buildings have entirely passed away, but we have an excellent example of an oriental basilica of the same date still standing in the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, rebuilt by Justinian in the 6th century (fig. 20). Here we find an oblong atrium, a vestibule or narthex, double aisles with Corinthian columns, and a transept, each end of which terminates in an apse, in addition to that in the usual position. Beneath the centre of the transept is the subterranean church of the Nativity (Vogué, Les Églises de la Terre Sainte, p. 46).

Constantinople preserved till recently a basilican church of the 5th century, that of St John Studios, 463, now a ruin. It had a nave and side aisles divided by columns supporting a horizontal entablature, with another order supporting arches forming a gallery above. There was the usual apsidal termination. The chief difference between the Eastern and Roman basilicas is in the galleries. This feature is very rare in the West, and only occurs in some few examples, the antiquity of which is questioned at Rome but never at Ravenna. It is, on the other hand, a characteristic feature of Eastern churches, the galleries being intended for women, for whom privacy was more studied than in the West (Salzenberg, Altchrist. Baudenkmale von Constantinople).

Basilica 20.png
Fig. 20.—Plan of church of
the Nativity, Bethlehem.
1, Narthex; 2, nave;
3, 3, aisles.

Other basilican churches in the East which deserve notice are those of the monastery of St Catherine on Mt. Sinai built by Justinian, that of Dana between Antioch and Bir of the same date, St Philip at Athens, Bosra in Arabia, Xanthus in Lycia, and the very noble church of St Demetrius at Thessalonica. Views and descriptions of most of these may be found in Texier and Pullan's Byzantine Architecture, Couchaud's Choix d'églises byzantines, and the works of the count de Vogué. In the Roman province of North Africa there are abundant remains of early Christian churches, and S. Gsell, Les Monuments antiques de l'Algérie, has noticed more than 130 examples. Basilicas of strictly early Christian date are not now to be met with in France, Spain or Germany, but the interesting though very plain "Basse Œuvre" at Beauvais may date from Carolingian times, while Germany can show at Michelstadt in the Odenwald an unaltered basilica of the time of Charles the Great. The fine-columned basilica of St Mauritius, near Hildesheim, dates from the 11th century, and the basilican form has been revived in the noble modern basilica at Munich.

Basilica 21.png
Fig. 21.—Plan of early Christian
Basilica of about the 4th century
at Silchester, Hants.
(From Archaeologia, liii.)

England can show more early Christian survivals than France or Germany. In the course of the excavation of the Roman city of Silchester, there was brought to light in 1892 the remains of a small early Christian basilica dating from the 4th century of which fig. 21 gives the plan (Archaeologia, vol. liii.). It will be