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The Early Byzantine Christian Church

An Archaeological Re-assessment of Forty-Seven Early Byzantine Basilical Church Excavations Primarily in Israel and Jordan, and their Historical and Liturgical Context


Bernard Mulholland

The observation that domestic artefacts are often recovered during church excavations led to an archaeological re-assessment of forty-seven Early Byzantine basilical church excavations and their historical, gender and liturgical context. The excavations were restricted to the three most common basilical church plans to allow for like-for-like analysis between sites that share the same plan: monoapsidal, inscribed and triapsidal. These sites were later found to have two distinct sanctuary configurations, namely a Π-shaped sanctuary in front of the apse, or else a sanctuary that extended across both side aisles that often formed a characteristic T-shaped layout. Further analysis indicated that Π-shaped sanctuaries are found in two church plans: firstly a protruding monoapsidal plan that characteristically has a major entrance located to either side of the apse, which is also referred to as a ‘Constantinopolitan’ church plan; and secondly in the inscribed plan, which is also referred to as a ‘Syrian’ church plan. The T-shaped layout is characteristic of the triapsidal plan, but can also occur in a monoapsidal plan, and this is referred to as a ‘Roman’ church plan. Detailed analysis of inscriptions and patterns of artefactual deposition also revealed the probable location of the diakonikon where the rite of prothesis took place.
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Chapter 8: Postscript: the ‘God phenomenon’


← 184 | 185 → CHAPTER 8

Postscript: the ‘God phenomenon’

Although ambitious, as indicated in the first chapter, one function of this book is to act as a driver for future research. There are a number of questions that fall beyond the remit of this book, but which have arisen during the course of research towards its completion.

Church plans

The catalogue of sites and artefacts compiled for this book is extensive and the conclusions drawn from examining the evidence therein derive credibility from this. There is a need to extend this line of enquiry to as many Early Byzantine churches as possible to determine the range of the three church plans identified and how they each evolved through time.

For example, the Constantinopolitan church plan appears to find a match at the fifth- or sixth-century Lower City Church at Amorium, which also has a protruding apse with an entrance to either side of it.1 Based upon the evidence from the catalogue of church sites, the Bema Church at Kalenderhane might also be relabelled as a Constantinopolitan church plan.2 This view can be based upon two linked observations. Firstly, although the ‘North Church’ was constructed first it was contemporary with the Bema Church, and as such would appear to function as the north chapel or diakonikon to the larger church. Secondly, the juxtaposition of ← 185 | 186 → the Bema Church and the ‘North Church’ does not allow sufficient space between them for either...

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