Research Article

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2022.17.946096   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2022.17.946096    Full Text (PDF)

Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography

Ozan HettoGülgün KöroğluNilay Çorağan

Balatlar Church, whose identity and usage phases can be determined with the excavations that started in 2010, is the only structure in Sinop city history whose purpose of the use is known. The mosaic finds unearthed in the frigidarium space of the building, which is known in the literature as the Balatlar Church and whose first establishment is understood to be the Roman Imperial Bath, is a unique material that differs in style and iconography from the mosaics unearthed in Sinop and its surroundings. Mosaics made in the opus tesselatum technique, which can be dated to the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century, as a result of the data and stylistic analyzes obtained in the studies, have an important position in Byzantine art and Christian iconography with their unique composition schemes. One of the most striking examples of these mosaic finds unearthed during the Balatlar Church Excavation is the mosaic panels numbered 3 and 6, which contain scenes on the “refrigerium”. As it is known, refrigerium, which means relief, is a scene that has been frequently depicted in Byzantine art for many years as a preview of paradise. Especially in the Early Byzantine period, different types of refrigerium scenes, which were spread over a wide geography, were depicted on works of art made of different materials. In the study, the examples of the Balatlar Church will be evaluated and the place and importance of the refrigerium, which is one of the most frequently encountered themed scenes in Byzantine art, will be determined.

DOI :10.26650/artsanat.2022.17.946096   IUP :10.26650/artsanat.2022.17.946096    Full Text (PDF)

Sinop Balatlar Kilisesi’nden Refrigerium Konulu Mozaik Pano ve Bizans İkonografisindeki Yeri

Ozan HettoGülgün KöroğluNilay Çorağan

2010 yılında başlayana kazı çalışmalarıyla kimliği ve kullanım evreleri kesin olarak saptanabilen Balatlar Kilisesi Sinop kent tarihi içerisinde kullanılış gayesi net olarak bilinen yegâne yapıdır. Balatlar Kilisesi olarak literatürde tanınan ve ilk kuruluşunun Roma İmparatorluk Hamamı olduğu anlaşılan yapının frigidarium mekânında 2016, 2017 ve 2018 yıllarında ele geçen mozaik buluntuları Sinop ve çevresinde açığa çıkarılan mozaiklerden üslup ve ikonografik olarak ayrılan ünik bir malzemedir. Yapılan çalışmalarda ele geçen veriler ve üslup analizleri sonucunda 4. yüzyıl sonu ile 5. yüzyılın başına tarihlendirilecek olan opus tesselatum tekniğinde yapılmış mozaikler kendine has kompozisyon düzenleri ile de Bizans sanatı ve Hristiyan ikonografisi içerisinde önemli bir yere sahiptir. Balatlar Kilisesi Kazısı’nda açığa çıkarılan bu mozaik buluntular içerisinde en dikkat çekici örneklerden biri refrigerium konulu sahneler barındıran 3 ve 6 numaralı mozaik panolardır. Bilindiği üzere ferahlama anlamına gelen refrigerium bir cennet ön gösterimi olarak Bizans sanatında uzun yıllar boyunca sıklıkla tasvir edilmiş bir sahnedir. Özellikle Erken Bizans döneminde çok geniş bir coğrafyaya yayılmış olan refrigerium sahnelerinin değişik malzemelerden yapılmış sanat eserleri üzerinde farklı çeşitleri betimlenmiştir. Çalışmada Balatlar Kilisesi örnekleri değerlendirilerek Bizans sanatı içerisinde sıklıkla karşılaşılan konulu sahnelerden biri olan refrigerium konu gelişimi içerisindeki yeri ve önemi saptanacaktır.


As a result of the excavations carried out since 2010 in the Balatlar Church, which is an important historical building remnant of Sinop, the most comprehensive Byzantine period studies have been carried out in the city. In addition to the history of the city of different periods, the data found in the excavations carried out under the direction of Gülgün Köroğlu contain illuminating information for the Byzantine and Christian periods. As a result of the excavations of the structure known as Balatlar Church, it is understood that it was a Roman Empire Bath built in the 2nd century. It became definite that the bath complex with Palaestra, Frigidarium, Tepidarium, Caldarium and Laconicum venues began to be used as a church in the late 4th century or at the beginning of the 5th century as a result of the studies. It is noteworthy that the structure was converted into a church in an early period. The findings of reliquary fragments and floor mosaics during the excavations show that the structure was the center of a cross in the early Byzantine period. Especially with the function of the Frigidarium as a Nekhorion (burial chapel), the mosaics made on the tombs prove the privileged position of the structure during the period. As it can be seen from the inscriptions, the mosaic boards show that the people buried here were built by their relatives after their death for their offerings.

The motive repertoire from the mosaic findings dating back to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine period and the Balatlar Church mosaics separated in terms of pattern and iconographic details, which were discovered as a result of the excavations carried out in various periods in the city of Sinop, are the works of art produced in local workshops. With the studies conducted during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 excavation seasons, the mosaic boards unearthed at the base of the Frigidarium were made in the technique of opus tesselatum. The mosaic boards of the early Byzantine period of Balatlar were not donated to cover the floor of a place. As it could be seen from these mosaic inscriptions, they were built by the relatives as an offering of people who had the privilege of being buried here. Below the mosaics, it is estimated that there are graves of the people mentioned. In the offering mosaics in Balatlar, different birds depicted from the front or the side were placed in knotted medallion crossings enclosed in geometric frames in areas surrounded by intertwined borders. On the borders, waterleaf, medallion crossings, zigzags, tooth and rhombuses are seen. On the main compositions of the boards, it is seen that the compositions, in which different birds are depicted, arranged in the form of mutual medallions connected by knots or larger in the middle and smaller around them and shown from the front or the side and beside the boards enclosed in overlapping circles and intertwined frames, there are scenes of refrigerium depicting different birds pecking vine branches and grapes emerging from the cup called a crater. 

The scenes on the theme of the refrigerium, which is our focus on the study, were found on two different mosaic boards in the mosaics of the Balatlar Church. The first of these is the granolithic floor, which is named board number 3 in the excavations. The other one is the mosaic board number 6. The mosaic that can reach the present as the most sheltered of the refrigerium compositions is the granolithic floor number 3. Mosaic board number 6 is partially visible. From the parts of mosaic board number 3, which is located in the south of the wastewater channel, which passes through the center of the Frigidarium place and divides the place in two in the north and south directions, and which is understood to have been destroyed in the destruction of the Seljuk period due to the northern part coming on the water channel, the composition scheme can be clearly understood. In a scene featuring vine branches emerging from the crater and birds of the various breeds depicted hovering around grapes or eating grapes, the moment of the preliminary appearance of the paradise called the refrigerium is portrayed. In connection with this issue, for example, the vine depicted on the board must be identified with Jesus, the grapes with the blood or eucharist of Jesus, and the birds of the different breeds must be identified with believers with various characteristics.

In Byzantine art, it is seen that the concept of refrigerium, which is supposed to have originated under the influence of pagan dead food from early periods, is used in the sense of refreshment. Tertullian, one of the first known theologians, described the refrigerium as a place of relaxation where good souls wait between heaven and hell. Therefore, these scenes, which are in the form of a preliminary representation of heaven in art, often appear in places or objects closely related to death. In the art of depiction, it is possible to see scenes on the theme of the refrigerium in different organization schemes. Pairs of mostly peacocks or different animal breeds, symmetrically placed on either side of the showy drinking cup, which is called a crater or kantharos, are the most common first variation of the scenes on the theme of the refrigerium. In addition, there are also often scenes of a refrigerium where various pairs of animals are symmetrically placed on either side of a tree or a depiction of the cross, referring to the real cross in which Jesus was crucified. Finally, another variant of the refrigerium scene is a species in which animals of the same or different breed are given together, symmetrically placed in a mutual or asymmetric arrangement between vine branches and grape inflorescences emerging from a crater. As an interpretation of humanity’s expectations from the afterlife, which is full of unknowns, the themes of heaven or our subject refrigerium, which have been present in art for a long time, have found a place in art as a result of people’s thoughts on the afterlife, which began from the most primitive periods. 

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Hetto, O., Köroğlu, G., & Çorağan, N. (2022). Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography. Art-Sanat, 0(17), 193-217.


Hetto O, Köroğlu G, Çorağan N. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography. Art-Sanat. 2022;0(17):193-217.


Hetto, O.; Köroğlu, G.; Çorağan, N. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography. Art-Sanat, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 17, p. 193-217, 2022.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Hetto, Ozan, and Gülgün Köroğlu and Nilay Çorağan. 2022. “Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 17: 193-217.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Hetto, Ozan, and Gülgün Köroğlu and Nilay Çorağan. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography.” Art-Sanat 0, no. 17 (Feb. 2023): 193-217.

Harvard: Australian Style

Hetto, O & Köroğlu, G & Çorağan, N 2022, 'Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography', Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 17, pp. 193-217, viewed 1 Feb. 2023,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Hetto, O. and Köroğlu, G. and Çorağan, N. (2022) ‘Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography’, Art-Sanat, 0(17), pp. 193-217. (1 Feb. 2023).


Hetto, Ozan, and Gülgün Köroğlu and Nilay Çorağan. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography.” Art-Sanat, vol. 0, no. 17, 2022, pp. 193-217. [Database Container],


Hetto O, Köroğlu G, Çorağan N. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography. Art-Sanat [Internet]. 1 Feb. 2023 [cited 1 Feb. 2023];0(17):193-217. Available from: doi: 10.26650/artsanat.2022.17.946096


Hetto, Ozan - Köroğlu, Gülgün - Çorağan, Nilay. Mosaic Panel on Refrigerium from Sinop Balatlar Church and its Place in Byzantine Iconography”. Art-Sanat 0/17 (Feb. 2023): 193-217.


Published Online27.01.2022


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