KNOSSOS - Basilica Church - 2006
Type of Operation
British School at Athens
Knossos: Basilica Church. R. Sweetman (St Andrews) presents a study of the Late Antique church discovered in the Knossos Medical Faculty excavations (1978). Of three in the Knossos valley (alongside the Sanatorium and Ag. Sophia basilicas), this is the oldest and largest. Its innovative architecture includes its triconch apse, large atrium and emphasis on monumental tombs. It may also have housed experimental liturgical practices, combining Eastern processional traits (hence the long hall) with Western revelation (hence the emphasis on the apse), reflecting the changing position of Crete between the two Empires.
The nave is divided from the aisles by a nine-column colonnade, with the triconch apse remaining highly visible. The atrium to the west contained a large cistern and had annex rooms along its north and south sides. The apse was covered by a dome with semi-domes above the conches. The interior of the basilica was decorated with wall mosaics and floors in opus sectile, tessellated mosaics and limestone flags. A peribolos wall surrounded it, and the temenos was approached through a decorated monumental and porticoed entrance. Ossuaries and tombs are associated.
The epigraphic and material records show that the Basilica was built around 400 AD over earlier burials, and survived into the seventh century. In Venetian and Ottoman times the area was used for houses and industrial activities.
As well as being a diocesan church, the basilica served as a martyrium (noting the triconch apse) and had a mortuary function. At least 26 graves and monuments are known from within the stoa, yard and basilica building, and also outside the peribolos wall. Simple stone lined, tile-covered graves were complemented by monumental edifices. Study of the remains of 153 individuals shows a low mortality rate, longevity and the presence of a range of social groups and customs. While this multifunctional picture has parallels, the KMF Basilica church is exceptional within comparable Cretan monuments.
10th Cretological Congress (2006) B2, 49-67.
Date of creation