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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
General view of the basilica in the Apollo Klarios shrine, seen from the northeast
The middle Byzantine northern transept of the basilica seen from the west. In the back (east) wall the blocked door is clearly visible on the right the altar podium or bema.
The transept with its exposed foundations resting upon the limestone bedrock (right). On the right wall, the white wall plaster of the mid-Byzantine period is still visible.

Altar stone for Apollo, reused as a receptacle for Holy Water inside the basilica

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Sanctuary of Apollo Klarios: August 21-25, 2005

During the last week of the test soundings in the former sanctuary of Apollo Klarios (originally constructed during the reign of Augustus, largely rebuilt under Trajan), we continued the excavations in the northern part of the transept of the Christian basilica built with the original building elements of the temple (see Apollo Klarios, August 7-18). These revealed that the foundations of the north and east wall of the church were built on top of the limestone bedrock, which had been worked to that extent. The artifacts retrieved from the fill of the foundation trench of the north wall allowed to date its construction, and undoubtedly that of the entire church, to the late fifth-early sixth century A.D., a date we already expected on the basis of the plan of the building. Covering the foundations and bedrock in the northern part of the transept was a floor of limestone slabs laid in a bed of mortar, some of them still present in the northwest and southeast corners of the space. Judging by the large amounts of marble slabs, glass tesserae and fragments of painted wall plaster found in the excavated deposits, the walls of the building were covered with crustae or marble wall veneer, glass mosaics and frescos. During in the 1880s, count K. Lanckoronski had noticed the presence of many mosaic stones in the apse of the church. He also had excavated the two same columns, which we exposed and partially put back into place this year, separating the northern transept from the rest of the church as far as their stylobate.

The small part of the altar platform or bema exposed, revealed that the latter was originally covered with marble slabs laid in a mortar bed. Such slabs were also placed against the east wall of the transept within the bema area, as indicated by in situ remains. Some nicely decorated architectural fragments found inside seem to go back to the repair of the temple in A.D. 103-104 (under Trajan).

Contrary to previous assumptions, the church was not definitely given up as a result of the seventh century earthquake which caused the abandonment of (large parts of) the city, as the last phase of usage of the basilica proved to date as late as the Middle Byzantine period, more precisely to the eleventh-twelfth century. This could be determined based on finds (coins and ceramics) retrieved from the floor level. This period corresponds with occupation attested to the south of the church (see Apollo Klarios, August 7-11). At that time, both the entrance in the east wall of the transept as well as the west wall of the northern aisle of the transept were sealed of by means of a rubble wall. The original floor of slabs in the northern part of the transept had been removed at that time and was replaced by a floor of beaten earth. The northern edge of the altar platform was rearranged at the same time. Parts of bema plaques and piers were found in the foundation of the wall closing off the northern side aisle, as well as in the Middle Byzantine floor substrate, indicating that the original chancel screen was no longer in place. Also the lavish wall decoration must have disappeared by then, as the walls were now covered with a simple white wall plaster which still remains in patches on the north and east wall. Possibly at this time, or perhaps upon the abandonment of the building, the marble floor cover of the bema was removed, leaving only traces along the edges. This last phase was covered by two destruction deposits containing, beside numerous architectural remains, more elements of the chancel screen as well as parts of the altar and a limestone basin on a pedestal. This basin once belonged to the temple of Apollo (indicated by the partly erased dedicatory inscription) and was probably reused as a receptacle for holy water used for ritual cleansing as it was found near the entrance to the transept.

All of this does not mean, however, that the church remained in use throughout the period between the seventh century A.D. and its middle Byzantine phase. The fact that most of the original decoration had been removed during the latter period rather indicates that for some time the church had gone out of use and had even been stripped of its contents. Yet, it was not destroyed beyond any repair during the seventh century A.D. catastrophe. This may help to explain why a very large Christian graveyard dated to this century was laid out around it, both to the south within the temenos (enclosure) wall, where the tombs almost touched the church itself, and to the east in the earthquake debris covering the west side of the Lower Agora. The fact that one was dealing with a martyr's church explains why people still wanted to be buried there: as close as possible to the martyr's remains, so that he could assist them on Resurrection Day.

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