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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/435

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Bk. I. Ch. II.
403
BASILICAS.

In addition, however, to the rectangular basilica, which was essentially the place of meeting for the transaction of the business of the church, the Christian community early adopted a circular-formed edifice as a ceremonial or sacramental adjunct to the basilica. These were copied from the Roman tombs above described, and were in fact frequently built for the sepulchres of distinguished persons; but they were also used at a very early date as baptisteries, as well as for the performance of funereal rites. It does not appear that baptism, the marriage rites, or indeed any of the sacraments, were performed in the earliest ages in the basilica, though in after ages a font was introduced even into cathedrals. The rectangular church became ultimately the only form used. In the earlier ages, however, a complete ecclesiastical establishment consisted of a basilica and a baptistery, independent of one another and seldom ranged symmetrically, though the tendency seems to have been to place the round church opposite the western or principal entrance of the basilica.

Though this was the case in the capital and other great cities, it was otherwise before the time of Constantine in the provinces. There the Christian communities existed as members of a religious sect long before they aspired to political power or dreamt of superseding the secular form of government by combination among themselves. In the remote parts of the Empire, in the earliest ages, they consequently built for themselves churches which were temples, or, in other words, houses of prayer, designed for and devoted wholly to the celebration of religious rites, as in the Pagan temples, and without any reference to the government of the community or the transaction of the business of the assembly. If any such existed in Italy or any other part of Europe, they either perished in the various persecutions to which the Christians were exposed when located near the seat of government, or they became hallowed by the memories of the times of martyrdom, and were rebuilt in happier days with greater magnificence, so that little or no trace of the original buildings now remains. So long, therefore, as our researches were confined to European examples, the history of Christian architecture began with Constantine; but recent researches in Africa have shown that, when properly explored, we shall certainly be able to carry the history of the Romanesque style in that country back to a date at least a century before his time. In Syria and Asia Minor, so many early examples have come to light that it seems probable that we may, before long, carry the history of Byzantine art back to a date nearly approaching that of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. It is, however, only so recently that the attention of ecclesiologists has been directed to the early examples of Christian architecture, that it is not yet possible to grasp completely the whole bearing of the subject; but enough is known to show how much the progress of research may modify the views hitherto enter-