Early Byzantine Period Church Fountains in the Light of the Southern Basilica Fountain in PergeMehmet Cihangir Uzun
Water was viewed as the source of everlasting life and divine resurrection throughout the Byzantine period, as a sign of sanctification and purification from sins, according to sacred texts. The Christian faith’s sanctification of water has resulted in specific ceremonial requirements in terms of liturgical and therapeutic applications. These requirements were met in the Early Christian Era by creating/constructing water structures and equipment. The liturgical fountains are one of thesestructures, where the congregation and clergy, particularly in the atriums of the churches, bathed their hands and feet in the courtyard before entering the naos. Archaeological surveys in recent years have revealed an escalating number of Early
Byzantine Period churches, adding to our prior knowledge. Nonetheless, many concerns remain unanswered regarding the purpose, architectural aspects, and nomenclature of church fountains. As a result, in this article, the subject of naming the fountains of the Early Byzantine Era is examined by employing terms from the period’s chronicles, and the structural characteristics of the fountains used for ablution are indicated. Moreover, the fountain in the atrium of the Perge South Basilica is introduced with its architectural features, and it is examined comprehensively by utilizing examples of fountains found in churches within and beyond Anatolia, which could be compared to the fountain in question. The article concludes with explanations as to why religious fountains are primarily found in churches in episcopal territories.
Perge Güney Bazilika Çeşmesi Işığında Erken Bizans Dönemi Kilise Çeşmeleri*Mehmet Cihangir Uzun
Bizans Dönemi’nde su, kutsal metinlere dayanılarak sonsuz yaşamın ve ilahi dirilişin kaynağı, kutsanma ve günahlardan arınmanın sembolü olarak görülmektedir. Hristiyan inancının suya atfettiği bu kutsallık, litürjik ve şifa amaçlı kullanımlar için önemli bir ritüel ihtiyacının doğmasına sebep olmuştur. Bu ihtiyaçların giderilmesi amacıyla Erken Hristiyanlık Dönemi’nden itibaren suyla ilgili yapılar ve gereçler oluşturulmuştur. Bu yapılardan biri de özellikle kiliselerin atriumlarındaki cemaatin ve ruhban sınıfının naosa girmeden önce avluda ellerini ve ayaklarını yıkadıkları liturjik işlevli çeşmelerdir. Son yıllarda yürütülen arkeolojik kazı çalışmaları sayesinde bilinen Erken Bizans Dönemi kiliselerinin sayısı artmıştır. Ancak kiliselerdeki çeşmelerin işlevleri, mimari özellikleri ve adlandırmasıyla ilgili cevaplanmayı bekleyen pek çok soru bulunmaktadır. Bu sebeple makalede, abdest alma amacıyla kullanılan çeşmelerin yapısal ayrımları, Erken Bizans Dönemi’nde hangi adlandırmalara sahip oldukları, dönem kronikleri ve kroniklerde geçen terimler üzerinden tartışılmıştır. Ayrıca Perge Güney Bazilikası atriumunda yer alan çeşme, mimari özellikleri bakımından ilk kez tanıtılarak, bu çeşmeyle analoji kurulabilen Anadolu ve Anadolu dışındaki kiliselerde bulunan çeşme örnekleriyle birlikte bütüncül olarak ele alınmıştır. Makalenin sonunda dinî nitelikli çeşmelerin niçin ağırlıklı olarak piskoposluk yerleşimlerindeki kiliselerde bulunduğuna dair cevaplara yer verilmiştir.
In the Byzantine period, water was viewed as the source of everlasting life and divine resurrection and as a sign of sanctification and purification from sins—an idea based on acred texts. The sanctification of water in Christianity has resulted in specific ceremonial requirements concerning liturgical and therapeutic applications. These requirements were met in the Early Christian Era by creating/constructing water structures and equipment. The liturgical fountains are one of these structures, where the congregation and clergy, particularly in the atriums of the churches, bathed their hands and feet in the courtyard before entering the naos. Functionally, these fountains, which were used for bodily cleansing before entering the place of worship, should have been symbolically seen as a means of spiritual purification of the soul, preparing the individual for a clean encounter with God. As can be seen from the example of the Perge South Basilica fountain, church fountains were decorated with rich architectural plastic elements to reflect the significance of the spiritual ritual they embodied.
Although their places and forms in the atrium generally vary depending on the size, location, and other physical conditions of the church, most of the examples evaluated within the scope of this article are rectangular-shaped piscinas/pools located on one side of their atrium and rectangular/semicircular niche and niches or a flat fountain façade placed behind them. As can also be seen, these types of fountains in the atrium are only rarely placed outside the building in churches without an atrium.
Several sources from the 4th century AD contain remarkable information regarding the process of washing hands and/or feet in fountains before entering the church and praying, as well as the various items used in this ritual and their nomenclature. In the mentioned chronicles, it can be inferred that there were mainly two types of fountains with different names in the early-period churches. One of them is the phiale, a characteristic structure for the period, and the other is the krene fountain. Written documents do not provide information about the structural features of the fountains, especially the phiale, since the ritual performed in the churches is described rather than the form of the fountain. According to the chronicles previously mentioned, there were primarily two types of fountains with various names in the early-period churches. One was the phiale, which was typical for the period, and the other was the krene fountain. Because the ritual conducted in the churches was more detailed than the shape of the fountain, written records examined within the scope of this study do not
give information about the structural features of the fountains, except the phiale. Asfar as these written records are considered, however, it is evident that the name krene
(κρήvη) was commonly employed in portrayals of fountains in churches, particularly as early as the fourth century AD. This name is utilized not just in churches but also in the general designation of the period’s secular fountain constructions. Krene (κρήvη) is simply a topped structural design that facilitates human use of a water source. As a result, we believe that the term krene, rather than phiale, would apply to the general nomenclature of church fountains of the Early Byzantine Era.
One of the rare examples from the Early Byzantine Period is the fountain located in the atrium of the Southern Basilica in Perge, which was used due to its location for cleansing rituals before the clergy entered the church and the congregation took place. This fountain, which can be defined as the krene (κρήvη) due to its general architectural features, must have been added to the atrium of the church in the 5th–6th centuries AD. A rectangular pool with a parapet arrangement in the atrium of the South Basilica and the marble-covered fountain wall extending behind it are structurally similar to many late-antique residential fountains. Still, the use of this type of fountain, which is analogous to many late antique residences in Anatolia, was very limited in Anatolian churches. Structures similar to those in Perge in terms of design, plan, and location are seen in churches in important episcopal settlements in the Balkans. The churches with a fountain (which can be defined as “krene”) in their atriums, especially those built in the second half of the 5th century, include Philippi A Basilica, Nikopolis B Basilica, Corinth Lechaion Hagios Leonidas Basilica, Corinth Kraneion Basilica, and Nea Anchialos A Basilica. The fact that they have a basilica plan with a transept, just as the Perge Southern Basilica does, emerges as a striking common feature.
When comparing the Southern Basilica fountain to other church fountains from the Early Byzantine Period that demonstrate identical traits to this fountain, the most striking common feature is that most of these fountains were located in churches in prominent episcopal towns. In addition to the example of Perge, fountains can also be seen in religious buildings andbuilding complexes dated to the Early Byzantine Period, affiliated with various episcopal settlements in Anatolia. Undoubtedly, the most important factor in this is the active role of the bishops in the cities of the Early Byzantine Period. It can be thought that the authority of the bishops over water management, depending on the urban administration in the Early Byzantine Period, was effective in the construction of the fountains, especially in the churches in the episcopal centers. These fountains, which were built especially depending on episcopate structures, reflect the power of episcopacy in religious architecture and city administration as a condition of Christianity, which was the main factor determining social and political life in the Early Byzantine Period.