1

IOAN IAŢCU

CONSTRUCŢII RELIGIOASE CREŞTINE ÎN
PROVINCIA SCYTHIA
Secolele IV-VI p.Chr.





















Descrierea CIP a Bibliotecii Naţionale a României
IAŢCU, IOAN
Construcţii religioase creştine în provincia Scythia: secolele IV-VI
p.Chr. / Ioan Iaţcu.- Brăila : Editura Istros a Muzeului Brăilei. 2012

ISBN 978-606-654-038-4

726.5












IOAN IAŢCU



CONSTRUCŢII RELIGIOASE CREŞTINE ÎN
PROVINCIA SCYTHIA
Secolele IV-VI p.Chr.












Editura ISTROS
Brăila, 2012






















This work was supported by
a grant of the Romanian National Authority for
Scientific Research, CNCS – UEFISCDI,
project number PN-II-RU-PD-2011-3-0103

5

CUPRINS



PREFAŢĂ ...................................................................................................................................................... 7
INTRODUCERE.................................................................................................................................... 11
I. SITUAŢIA GEOGRAFICĂ ŞI ORGANIZAREA ADMINISTRATIVĂ A PROVINCIEI
SCYTHIA ÎN SECOLELE IV-VI p.Chr. .......................................................................................... 17
I.1. Cadrul geografic ................................................................................................................. 17
I.2. Organizarea administrativă .......................................................................................... 21
II. ORGANIZAREA ECLEZIASTICĂ A PROVINCIEI ÎN SECOLELE V-VI p.Chr. ............ 27
III. BAZILICILE CREŞTINE. PLANIMETRIE ŞI CRONOLOGIE........................................... 33
III.1. Bazilici şi cripte ............................................................................................................... 33
III.2. Repertoriul bazilicilor creştine din provincia Scythia .................................. 44
IV. ELEMENTE DE ARHITECTURĂ INTERIOARĂ ................................................................ 103
IV.1. Atrium-ul ........................................................................................................................... 103
IV.2. Narthex-ul ......................................................................................................................... 106
IV.3. Naos-ul ............................................................................................................................... 107
IV.4. Transeptul ........................................................................................................................ 109
IV.5. Absida (exedra) .............................................................................................................. 110
IV.6. Bema ................................................................................................................................... 111
IV.7. Cripta (crypta) ................................................................................................................ 114
IV.8. Pastophoria (diaconicon şi prothesis) ................................................................. 118
IV.9. Anexe funerare (Memoriae) .................................................................................... 121
IV.10. Baptisterium (βαπτιστήριον) ............................................................................... 121
IV.11. Reşedinţa episcopală (episkopion) .................................................................... 124
V. ELEMENTE DE PLASTICĂ ŞI DECOR .................................................................................... 151
V.1. Plăci de cancelli (κάγκελλοι)..................................................................................... 151
V.2. Pilaştri şi stâlpi-colonetă de pergula .................................................................... 170
V.3. Capiteluri cu sau fără fragmente de colonete ................................................... 173
V.4. Mese de altar (Mensa sacra)...................................................................................... 175
V.5. Tencuiala şi stucatura pictată din bazilica episcopală de la Histria ...... 182

6

V. 6. Piese de iluminat. Depozitul de sticlă din anexa bazilicii episcopale de la
Histria ........................................................................................................................................... 192
VI. PROGRAMUL RELIGIOS BIZANTIN ŞI CONSECINŢELE SALE ASUPRA
EDIFICIILOR BAZILICALE DIN SCYTHIA ..................................................................... 201
VI.1. Implementarea programului arhitectural constantinian în Scythia ... 201
VI.2. Programul religios şi arhitectural al împăraţilor Anastasius I şi
Iustinianus I ............................................................................................................................... 216
CONSIDERAŢII FINALE ................................................................................................................... 261
ABREVIERI ............................................................................................................................................. 265
I. Izvoare ...................................................................................................................................... 265
II. Dicţionare, Enciclopedii ................................................................................................. 270
III. Periodice .............................................................................................................................. 271
IV. Volume .................................................................................................................................. 274
BIBLIOGRAFIE ..................................................................................................................................... 276
Surse web ................................................................................................................................... 316
LISTA ILUSTRAŢIILOR ..................................................................................................................... 317
ABSTRACT CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE PROVINCE
SCYTHIA The 4
th
– 6
th
Centuries AD ................................................................................ 327
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS .................................................................................................... 344
7

PREFAŢĂ
Istoriografia română referitoare la creștinarea populaţiilor de pe
teritoriul Daciei, destul de bogată și diversificată, este reprezentată de o gamă
largă de publicaţii, de la scurte note de informare și studii de caz sau de sinteză și
până la ample lucrări monografice și cataloage de expoziţii. În cuprinsul lor găsim
aprecieri pertinente asupra procesului foarte îndelungat de convertire, a
implicaţiilor și efectelor imediate și ulterioare în teritoriu, precum și a condiţiilor
de desfășurare a fenomenului în diferite zone ale arealului. Totodată, mai trebuie
menţionat că investigaţiile și studiile întreprinse de-a lungul anilor poartă vizibil
amprenta stadiilor de cercetare și a limitelor de informare și metodologice in care
au fost elaborate.
Cercetările asupra istoriei creștinismului la comunităţile umane din
spaţiul avut în vedere nu s-au făcut în cadrul vreunei organizări instituţionale
speciale, ci s-au dezvoltat mai mult în paralel cu descoperirile arheologice din
siturile romane târzii și romano-bizantine, evidenţiindu-se cu prioritate acelea
din Scythia dobrogeană, acolo unde au apărut și marea majoritate a construcţiilor
religioase creștine. De asemenea, un număr destul de redus de asemenea
construcţii au apărut și de-a lungul malului stâng al Dunării de jos. Lucrările
monografice și studiile îndeosebi ale unor autori ca V. Pârvan
1
, R. Netzhammer
2
și
J. Zeiller
3
, pentru a menţiona doar pe cei mai importanţi din cei care s-au implicat
cu investigaţii de referinţă în primele două decenii ale veacului trecut, au avut un
puternic impact asupra istoriografiei de atunci, întrucât au întreţinut interesul
crescând și au impulsionat enorm preocupările pentru această temă. Totodată,
este de remarcat că acești autori și-au îndreptat atenţia în cel mai înalt grad către
antichităţile creștine mai numeroase și mai spectaculoase din Dobrogea și într-o
măsură mai redusă spre acelea descoperite de-a lungul Dunării, pentru care
existau și informaţii importante din izvoarele scrise.
I. Barnea este un alt autor de la care ne-au rămas lucrări de referinţă
consistente despre istoria creștinismului la români, al căror impact major în
literatura românească de specialitate a fost unanim recunoscut de specialiștii din
domeniu. La peste jumătate de secol de la apariţia lucrărilor celor trei autori

1 Pârvan 1911.
2 Netzhammer 1918.
3 Zeiller 1918.
PREFAŢĂ
8

menţionaţi mai sus, I. Barnea a avut la dispoziţie o informaţie arheologică mult
mai bogată, de aceea și valorificarea ei a putut fi evident realizată la un nivel
superior. Totuși, observaţia făcută asupra lucrărilor apărute în primele decenii ale
secolului XX, potrivit cărora acestea au avut antichităţile creștine din Scythia
dobrogeană ca principal obiectiv de studiu, rămâne valabilă și pentru toate
contribuţiile publicate de I. Barnea. Motivarea pentru care se păstrează această
constantă de-a lungul anilor este logică, determinată fiind de repartiţia
diferenţiată pe zone a antichităţilor creștine, în funcţie de densitatea și
monumentalitatea lor. Spre exemplu, în cartea sa despre Arta creștină în România.
1. Secolele III-VI, autorul dă o ilustraţie foarte bogată cu vestigii creștine de tot
felul din întreaga ţară, de la planuri de bazilici și până la piese de inventar mărunt
cu semne și simboluri creștine
4
. Din totalul celor 118 planșe, 101 planșe
reprezintă siturile dobrogene (85,59%), 8 planșe siturile de pe malul stâng al
Dunării sau apropiate acestui aliniament (6,78%), 6 planșe siturile transilvănene
(5,08%) și 3 planșe siturile aflate în afara fostelor graniţe romane (2,54%).
Imaginea de mai sus despre intensitatea vieţii creștine în diferite zone ale
spaţiului românesc în secolele IV-VI este grăitoare și se repetă în parametrii
apropiaţi în toată literatura despre istoria creștinismului la români. În același
timp, ea arată că tratarea globală și nediferenţiată a creștinării daco-romanilor și
mai apoi a romanicilor, precum și a diferitelor grupe de alogeni ajunse temporar
în spaţiul românesc de mai târziu, nu este atât de fericită din punct de vedere
informaţional și metodologic.
Investigarea mai întâi separată a procesului de convertire la creștinism în
aceste zone se impune ca o stringentă necesitate și ea nu știrbește cu nimic relaţia
de complimentaritate și de apropiere evidentă a acestora pe diverse paliere în
toate perioadele istorice importante. Creștinarea teritoriului dintre Dunăre și
Mare se desfășoară în secolele IV-VI cu o intensitate deosebită și el devine o
imensă fortăreaţă de apărare și de iradiere a religiei creștine către toate punctele
cardinale.
Scythia dobrogeană creștină trebuie evidenţiată prin cercetările viitoare
cu maximum de profesionalism, cu caracteristicile, detaliile și particularităţile ei,
precum și cu aura de mare metropolă creștină la graniţa dunăreană a Imperiului.
Numai odată cu punerea în valoare știinţifică a izvoarelor scrise antice și a tuturor
categoriilor de antichităţi creștine descoperite până acum, vom putea avea o
percepţie reală a ceea ce a însemnat până târziu fortăreaţa dobrogeană creștină
pentru ţinuturile românești de la nordul Dunării de Jos. Ea a iradiat deopotrivă
creștinism și romanitate la nordul fluviului, ambele atât de benefice pentru istoria
românilor.
În acest context, cartea colegului Ioan Iaţcu trebuie considerată un
început tocmai la realizarea acestui deziderat. Astfel, pentru prima dată el

4 Barnea 1979.
PREFAŢĂ
9

consacră un întreg volum doar construcţiilor religioase creștine din Scythia
dobrogeană, între care se află în prezent un număr de 56 bazilici, în legătură cu
care discută cu profesionalism o multitudine de probleme referitoare mai ales la
arhitectura și funcţionaliatea lor.
Tema luată în studiu de autor în această monografie, într-o variantă
apropiată prezentată anterior ca lucrare de disertaţie pentru promovarea
doctoratului, este de o importanţă aparte pentru istoria românilor, fiind frecvent
invocată mai ales în legătură cu procesul de romanizare a populaţiei din fostele
teritorii dacice de la sudul şi de la nordul Dunării de Jos. Întrucât cercetările
arheologice din ultima jumătate de veac din spaţiul dobrogean, cunoscut în
perioada romană sub numele de Scythia sau Scythia Minor, au dus la descoperirea
unor importante edificii religioase creştine, mai ales bazilici, se impunea în chip
evident şi realizarea unei noi lucrări monografice asupra subiectului, care să
cuprindă pe cât posibil toate noutăţile survenite.
Ioan Iaţcu a elaborat o lucrare cuprinzătoare, care îmbină echilibrat partea
de analiză cu aceea de sinteză. Prima din ele, bazată pe un catalog amplu al
descoperirilor făcute până acum, prezintă în principal monumentele şi
componentele acestora, cu referiri la problemele de planimetrie și la materialele de
construcţie, la elementele de plastică și decor sau la funcţionalitatea diverselor alte
construcţii și amenajări. De asemenea, găsim în lucrare și aprecieri judicioase
despre monumentalitatea bazilicilor, care prin dimensiuni, calitatea materialelor de
construcţie și rafinamentul componentelor ornamentale atestă o măreţie
arhitecturală de necontestat, ce rivalizează uneori cu construcţiile similare
fastuoase și impunătoare din chiar capitala imperiului. Toate aceste descoperiri au
fost prezentate ţinând seama de situaţia geografică şi administrativă a Scythiei
Minor în secolele IV-VI, precum şi de organizarea ecleziastică a provinciei din
aceeaşi perioadă. De asemenea, într-un voluminos capitol premergător
consideraţiilor finale, autorul se oprește și asupra unora din ideile şi concepţiile
creştine ale Imperiul Bizantin şi a modului în care acestea se răsfrâng asupra
edificiilor religioase din Scythia Minor.
Cronologia antichităţilor creștine din Scythia dobrogeană arată că, începând
din secolul al IV-lea p.Chr., această provincie romană de la gurile Dunării cunoaște o
efervescenţă a vieţii religioase creștine de excepţie, foarte probabil ca o consecinţă
directă a Edictului de la Mediolanum din anul 313 emis de împăraţii Constantin cel
Mare și Licinius, prin care se acorda libertate deplină creștinilor. Evanghelizarea
populaţiilor din Scythia a început de timpuriu, probabil încă din a doua jumătate a
secolului I p.Chr., dar cei care au îmbrăţișat noua religie, iniţial în număr mai redus,
au rămas pentru o vreme în ilegalitate și în subteran. Abia din secolul al IV-lea
p.Chr. creștinii părăsesc catacombele, intră în cotidian și își practică cu
transparenţă ceremoniile și întreaga viaţă bisericească. Acum se organizează
întreaga viaţă religioasă creștină și se înmulţesc în ritm alert bazilicile, care dau
creștinismului în totalitate lui, dar și creștinului de rând stabilitate, durată, o altă
PREFAŢĂ
10

dimensiune și o altă percepţie credinţei creștine. Iată de ce eforturile depuse de
Ioan Iaţcu pentru o asemenea investigaţie de lungă durată și în final pentru reușita
lui, o monografie de foarte bună calitate asupra bazilicilor din Scythia Minor, ce va
rămâne mult timp o lucrare de referinţă, mi se par a fi o contribuţie reală și de mare
utilitate la istoria creștinismului la români. Lucrarea împreună cu autorul ei merită
din plin toată consideraţia noastră.

Ion Ioniţă

327

ABSTRACT

CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS CONSTRUCTIONS
IN THE PROVINCE SCYTHIA
The 4
th
– 6
th
Centuries AD
INTRODUCTION
Systematic researches in the field of Christian archeology, completed by
the study of written sources (literary, epigraphic), archeological and iconographic
pointed out the penetration of the new religion born on the banks of the Jordan
already in the 1
st
– 2
nd
centuries AD also in the region of Dobruja, especially in the
cities on the west-Pontic littoral. The obtained information demonstrated the
existence of the commercial connections of the province with the faraway areas of
the Empire, fact which favored not only the trading of goods but also the
circulation of religious ideas. Most missionaries who preached in the province
would normally be ascetical monks coming most often from Asia Minor, Syria,
Mesopotamia and Egypt. Their activity covered the entire province, especially in
the large fortresses on the sea limes and the Danubean one as well. Another
category of missionaries were military personnel coming from the East, identified
on the basis of inscriptions and also according to archeological finds in the area of
the Danubean frontier. The area neighboring the Empire frontiers still under the
control of Roman Emperors (Muntenia, south of Moldavia, north of the Mouths of
Danube and of the Black Sea), and the regions located in partibus infidelium were
outside the area of missionary activity. The first Christian communities in Scythia
Minor are certified at Tomis, the main city and port of the province, and also the
Extrema Scythiae Minoris at Halmyris, one of the first centers with Christian cores
already in the period prior to the reign of Diocletian, fact pointed out by narrative
sources. The crystallization of religion in the 4
th
– 6
th
centuries AD is
demonstrated by the numerous cult edifices discovered in most of the fortresses
in Dobruja. Christian basilicas shall occupy an important place within the urban
topography, dominating the public edifices from the architectural point of view.
Starting with 313, the Church becomes a powerful institution within the Roman
state, having apart religious tasks also political competences. The Church had the
mission to intervene wherever the imperial diplomacy failed, that is the in the
Abstract
328

north-Danubean space, where its input has been necessary in pacifying
barbarians. The process could not take place without a good organization of the
Dobrujan Church, institution which had the see at Tomis, the most prosperous
city of the province. Tomitan bishops undertook an ample missionary activity in
the rural environment, where pagan traditions were still on going, and also
among the new comers in the province (Goths, Huns, Slavs etc.). Active
implications of the prelates in the capital in the theological debates held within
the ecumenical councils increased the fame thereof as defenders of the “right
faith”. The space contained between the Danube and the Black Sea has provided
ever since the second half of the 19
th
century numerous paleo-Christian vestiges.
The purpose of the present book is to research the Christian constructions
discovered in Dobruja (Scythia Minor), built during the 4
th
– 6
th
centuries AD, a
politically disturbed period, but with considerable architectural achievements.
Undertaking an itinerary throughout the region of Scythia, following the west-
Pontic littoral and the Danubean limes, deviating towards the interior, we can
notice an energetic architectural and artistic activity sustained by the civilian and
ecclesiastic authorities in the cities restored by emperors Anastasius I and
Justinian I. The late Roman urbanism of Scythia Minor was placed under the
constructive aegis of emperors of Constantinople. The general restoration of the
Empire by Justinian (527-565 p.Chr.), carefully observed and described by the
historian of this epoch, Procopius of Caesarea, led to an improvement of the
situation regarding the stopping of the invasions through the creation of
successive lines of fortifications and fortresses on the Danubean limes and also in
the inner areas of the Empire. The paleo-Christian basilicas of the 5
th
– 6
th

centuries AD have been attested in very large numbers, fact which allowed the
remark that they operated in parallel to some older ones dated to the 4
th
century
AD, these latter ones being built just after the adoption of the “Church Peace”
Researches undertaken during the last 25 years at Histria brought to light the
ruins of a large 6
th
century basilica which proved to be the largest episcopal
edifice of Scythia Minor and one of the most imposing religious buildings in the
Balkan Peninsula. The present book provides a wide repertory of the basilicas in
Dobruja and of those identified north the Danube, describing them as
exhaustively as possible. For the elaboration of this database, which shall become
a useful work instrument for future researches of paleo-Christian constructions in
Scythia Minor, volumes and studies treating this topic, logbooks of archeological
excavations and ancient sources have been used. For the organization of the 4
th

chapter, Elements of interior architecture, we used as models the following
volumes: Histria, XIII, La basilique épiscopale, by Al. Suceveanu with the
collaboration of architect G. Milośevič, O. Bounegru, C. Muşeţeanu and Gh. P.
Bordea and the participation of A. Bâltâc, M. Dima, I. Iaţcu, Bucharest, 2007 and P.
Chevalier, Salona. Ecclesiae Dalmatiae. L’architecture paleochrétienne de la
province romaine de Dalmatie (IV
e
-VII
e
s.), II, Illustrations et conclusions, Rome-
Split, 1995. The structure of the volume signed by N. Duval, E. Martin, C. Metzger,
Abstract
329

Salona, I, Catalogue de la sculpture architecturale paléochrétienne de Salone,
Rome-Split, 1994 also served as a veritable work instrument in the organization
and elaboration of the 5
th
chapter, Elements of plastic art and ornamentation. This
chapter also contains a catalogue of the decorative art finds of the interior of
paelo-Christian basilicas. Mention should be made from the start that in
researching ornamental elements, we focused on elements of the interior
ornamentation of the basilicas of Scythia Minor which have not been researched
so far. Thus, we focused only on altar tables, cancelli balustrades (plates, small
columns), and on the wall decorations consisting in painted stucco. These were
the subject of wide field researches consisting in archeological excavations and
researches in the stores of the archeological site of Histria, undertaken during the
period 2002-2007.
I. GEOGRAPHIC SITUATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE ORGANIZATION OF
PROVINCE SCYTHIA IN THE 4
TH
– 6
TH
CENTURIES AD
I.1. Geographic context
The Roman province which is the object of this study is Scythia Minor.
If the eastern, northern and northwestern frontiers of the province
between the Danube and the Black Sea allow for an easy reconstruction, as they
fully comply with the principle postulating that a frontier (limes) shall follow
certain natural references, the river and the sea, in our case the Danube and the
Black Sea, the southern limit raised a series of debates. Thus, V. Pârvan, R. Vulpe,
S. Torbatov tried, throughout the 20
th
century, to draw the limits of the western
and southern contours. Thus, in 2000, the Bulgar archeologist S. Torbatov
launched the hypothesis that the western banks of lake Oltina and of river Suha
Reka belong to the province Moesia Secunda, while the eastern banks would
belong to the province Scythia Minor.
I.2. Administrative organization
Regarding the genesis of the Roman province Scythia Minor, it
corresponds to the moment of the foundation by Diocletian (284-305 AD) of the
two legions which stationed on its territory, I Iovia and II Herculia. The safest
interval when the administrative-territorial reforms on the lower Danube took
place is 21 July 286 AD – 1 March 293 AD. Therefore, Diocletian created 12 new
territorial-administrative units through the grouping of circumscriptions in large
provinces, dioceses (diocesseos). Diocese Thracia consisted of six provinces,
among which Scythia Minor. A province would be ruled by a military
commandant (dux). The capital was Tomis, which was also the quarters of the
military commandant, as well as those of the governor or praeses, in charge of
civilian matters. During Constantine I (306-337 p.Chr.), the administrative
division in dioceses and provinces made by Diocletian being maintained, the
Empire was split into four prefectures: praefectura per Orientem, praefectura per
Abstract
330

Illyricum, Italiae et Africae and praefectura Galliarum. The diocese Thracia, which
included the province Scythia Minor, became part of the prefecture Oriens. During
the 6
th
century AD, in the Balkan Peninsula, only two dioceses are present:
Thracia and Illyricum, the diocese Thracia including the following provinces:
Europa. Rhodope, Thracia, Haemimontus, Moesia Secunda and Scythia. Hirocles’
“Traveling guide” (Synecdemos) mentions 15 cities, complying with the civil-
administrative structure: Tomis, Dionysopolis, Akrai, Callatis, Istros,
Constantiana, Zeldepa, Tropaeum, Axiopolis, Capidava, Carsium, Troesmis,
Noviodunum, Aegissos and Halmyris. In Notitia Episcopatuum of De Boor, there
are mentioned the episcopal centers of Scythia Minor. Thus, after Tomis, the
metropolitan and archiepiscopal autocephalous see, there follow Anaxiupolis
(Axiopolis), Kapidavan (Capidava), Bipainon (Beroe?, L(I)bida?, Troesmis?),
Konpros (Carsium?, Troesmis?), Nikomedos (Noviodunum?), Desos (Aegyssos?),
Salsobia (Salsovia), Halmyrion (Halmyris), Tropaion (Tropaeum Traiani), Zeldipa
(Zaldapa), Dionysoupalis (Dionysopolis), Kalatos (Callatis), Istrion (Istria),
Konstantiana. Between Synecdemos and the ecclesiastic list there appears only
one difference, more precisely the one of the city of Akrai which is specified only
by Hierocles, but not listed among the episcopal sees by De Boor. Instead Salsovia
is specified. Therefore, the enumeration order in Notitia Episcopatuum be
hierarchically ecclesiastic, it could not necessarily correspond by all means to the
civil-administrative one, of the Synecdemos. In 536 AD, Justinian I (527-565
p.Chr.) detaches provinces Scythia Minor and Moesia Secunda from the diocese
Thracia and places them under the ruling of a questor Iustinianus exercitus with
the quarters in Varna. This questor would rule over a territory whose extent
seems to be very strange, as Ciclade islands, province Caria in Asia Minor and
island Cypress are added. This administrative structure had a military character,
being created for the consolidation of the Danubean limes. The association with
the richest provinces aimed at providing the means necessary for maintaining the
troops on the Danube by assuring the necessary food (annona): wine and olive oil.

Abstract
331

II. ECCLESIASTIC ORGANIZATION OF THE PROVINCE IN THE 5
TH
– 6
TH

CENTURIES AD
In the 4
th
– 5
th
centuries AD, Scythia Minor had a special situation, fact
confirmed by Sozomenus, in the context of the confrontation between the Arian
Emperor Valens and bishop Bretanio, “And until today there reigns the old habit
that the churches of the entire people should have only one bishop”. This
“Scythian exception” is also confirmed by the constitution of Zenon of 480 AD, in
which it was specified that in spite of the rule according to which each fortress
was to have its own bishop, churches of Scythia had to continue obeying to the
bishop of Tomis.
According to certain opinions, during the second half of the 4
th
century
AD, Tomis had become the autocephalous archiepiscopal see subordinated to the
patriarchy of Constantinople. Thus, the bishop of Tomis had the rank of
archbishop. Newer theories have assigned to Tomis the statute of autocephalous
archbishopric, starting with the reign of Justinian. Notitia Episcopatuum attests
the ascension of Tomis to the rank of metropolitanate, while 14 other cities in the
Dobrujan space become episcopal centers. Among these, Histria, Callatis,
Tropaeum Traiani are remarked through the large number of religious edifices, as
well as through the existence of episcopal palaces.
III. CHRISTIAN BASILICAS. PLANIMETRY AND CHRONOLOGY
III.1. Basilicas and crypts
The first cult places had a private character, being adapted to the
Christians’ reunions and conventionally known under the name of domus
ecclesiae. Throughout the territory of the province Scythia Minor at the end of the
3
rd
century AD there were already certain cult rooms (habitacula), as resulting
from the mentioning of the Halmyris martyrs’ passion, of the year 290 AD. The
basilicas discovered in Scythia Minor are topographically grouped in two
categories: extra moenia (extra muros) and intra moenia (intra muros). From the
functional point of view, a distinction can be made between the cemetery
basilicas (basilicae martyrum) and the parish ones (basilicae ecclesiae).
Chronologically, cemetery basilicas (coemeterialis) are the oldest, usually
overlapping a crypt or a martyr’s tomb.
The edifice orientation was eastwards, usually stipulated by the Apostles’
Constitutions and having its origin in the Judaic traditions. Most religious edifices
(2/3) of Scythia Minor are basilicas of the Hellenistic or Aegean type, being
characterized by the presence of the three naves and of the eastwards apse. Less
than a third are one nave-constructions. Two basilicas discovered in Roman
Dobruja have three eastwards apses, one for each nave. They were discovered at
L(I)bida and Histria (the extra muros basilica – the first phase). The only
identified edifices with a transept are those of Tropaeum Traiani (the basilica
with transept) and Histria (the large episcopal basilica). The basilica of Callatis
Abstract
332

and the smallest of the three basilicas of Troesmis are influenced by the Syrian
type. From the rural environment mentiona should be made of the monastic
compound of Slava Rusă, consisting in two basilicas and a chapel, all of them
being surrounded by a boundary wall, symbol of the material limit and moral
symbol of the monastery. The basilicas of Niculiţel and Teliţa-“Amza” became
rural communities, being erected– in the first case – , on the domain of land
owners who had the statute of euergetes (εὐεργῄται). Scythan basilicas
represented models for the cave churches, whose continuity can be establishing
until the 8
th
– 9
th
centuries AD. Thus, we notice the churches of Dumbrăveni, those
on the valley of River Suha Reka (“Giaur Evleri”, Sandakla Maara, “Asar Evleri”), as
well as the church of Caliacra. Complying with the planimetry of the simple
basilica type, they were veritable replicas of the urban masonry constructions.
III.2. Repertory of Christian basilicas in the province Scythia
The presentation of basilicas within the repertory was done according to
the alphabetic order of the localities. We integrated the ancient ones and the
current ones in the same order, even if they do not have a correspondence in the
centuries we focus on. The Repertorium opens with Argamum, where four
basilicas were identified, one of which was an episcopal one. There follow
Axiopolis, where the archeological researches revealed two basilicas; Beroe, with
one cemetery basilica with crypt; Bizone, a basilica dedicated to Sts. Kosmas and
Damianos; Callatis, an episcopal basilica and four other basilicas which were
identified during the last decades; Capidava, a basilica with miniature crypt
(loculus); Carsium, a partially identified church; Dinogeţia, a basilica with apse to
which a pentagonal wall was added; Dionysopolis, an edifice of the basilica type
located at 4 km north frm Balcic and a basilica situated on the acropolis of the
fortress.
The register of Scythan basilicas continues with the episcopal center of
Halmyris, where a basilica with an architecturally and plastically spectacular
crypt was discovered, and which was meant to host the bodies of Martyrs
Epictetus and Astion. It continues with Histria, where exhaustive excavations
brought to light an extra muros basilica, a basilica with crypt, an edifice of the
basilica type located in the fortress square, a basilica located in the southeastern
corner of the fortress, the whole culminating with the large episcopal basilica
overlapping a 4
th
century AD church (the basilica “C”). The episcopal basilica is
situated within an epicopium, composed of four villae of the domus type, out of
which the edifice with private chapel stands out. The enumeration of basilicas
continues with (L)Ibida, where a religious edifice with three apses was identified,
and then with Niculiţel, where a basilica with a crypt would host the bodies of
martyrs Zotikos, Attalos, Kamasis and Philippos. At Noviodunum there was
identified a 5
th
– 6
th
century AD basilica, and at Ovidiu, a Christian basilica with
cupola (“edifice C”). The last Bulgarian excavations of Golesh (Sanctus Cyrillus ?)
have pointed out a martyrium-arcossolium, with an alt-relief representing Virgin
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333

Mary flanked by two archangels, as well as a basilica. The paleo-Christian
monastic compound of Slava Rusă is followed by another one of Tuzla, where
ancient Stratonis Turris is supposed to have been situated. Both constructions
seem to have been connected by the existence of monastic compounds with
precinct walls, both inside the province, and along the limes (the religious
compound of Ovidiu, the fortified monastery of Halmyrissos described in Vita
Sancti Hypatii). The assignment of a Christian character of the basilica of Teliţa
“Amza” is questioned, although certain elements of planimetry show similarities
with those of a Christian edifice. The largest density of Christian edifices of the
basilica type is found in Tomis, the capital of the province Scythia. One of the best
researched Christian edifices is the large basilica with cross-shaped crypt, located
in the western area of ancient Tomis. Near them, there is the “small basilica”. The
church in the yard of M. Eminescu high-school is remarked through its crypt with
three loculi and interior painting. The corpus of basilicas continues with the
basilica of Gate no. 1 of the port, then with the basilica on Revoluţiei str.. It
contained a crypt within which a glass reliquary was discovered. The basilicas
southwest of the Palace hotel and on the NE shore of the peninsula, as well as the
construction with Christian character with a mosaic pavement end the series of
religious constructions of the Tomis “urbs magna et opulenta”.
On the Black Sea coast, at Topola (Bulgaria), a basilica with pulpit inside
was discovered. The repertory continues with the presentation of basilicas of
Troesmis, where older excavations brought to light three Christian edifices. It
continues with Tropaeum Traiani, where the “simple” basilica with a crypt with
semi cylindrical vault was discovered. The basilica “with transept” containing a
crypt with niches is followed by the “cistern” basilica built above the foundations
of an old Roman water cistern. The “marble” basilica with baptisterium and
episcopium had the statute of city cathedral. The enumeration of the basilicas of
Tropaeum ends with the two edifices outside the fortress, the extra muros basilica
and the coemeterialis basilica. Regarding the religious edifices of the fortress
Ulmetum, our list includes the 5
th
– 6
th
century AD basilica which has been
researched during the last year and which consolidates the theory of V. Pârvan
according to whom the “construction with an apse”, considered till not so long the
Christian church, is a military edifice (praetorium). The repertory ends with the
fortress Zaldapa, where two Christian basilicas were identified, out of which
basilica 1, with a pulpit inside was identified. A mosaic pavement also
ornamented its chancels, while numerous marble elements ornamented the
interior of the edifice. Therefore we can speak of a density of Christian basilicas in
the province Scythia, the total number of such edifices included in our repertory
being of 56.

Abstract
334

IV. ELEMENTS OF INTERIOR ARCHITECTURE
IV.1. The atrium
This architectural element is a space with or without a portico, which
precedes the entrance into the basilica. It was meant for the believers,
catechumens and penitents. Throughout the territory of Scythia Minor, there
were identified two types of atriums: 1. triporticus (Tropaeum Traiani – the
“marble” basilica with a transept; Histria – the episcopal basilica); 2.
quadriporticus (Tropaeum Traiani – the “simple” basilica).
IV.2. The narthex
It was reserved to the catechumens, category which was to receive the
baptism, as well as the penitents. The Narthex was taken over from the Judaic
architecture. It has been definitively imposed in the religious architecture,
together with the reign of Justinian. Making the connection with the interior
compartments, and with the exterior ones, the narthex has been referred to as “le
carrefour de tout l’édifice”.
VI.3. The Naos
This place was meant to the believers. It contains the space reserved to
the different at categories of people attending the religious ceremony – naves and
tribunes, as well as the place meant for the officiants– the sanctuary and the apse.
In the central nave there was the pulpit (ambo), the architectural and decorative
element identified at Histria (episcopal basilica– the traces of a pulpit with double
stairway); Tropaeum Traiani (the “marble” basilica – octagonal marble pedestal);
Tomis – the church crypt in the yard of M. Eminescu High-school – marble
banister); Topola (the limestone basin of a pulpit); Zaldapa (bazilica 1 – double
stairway pulpit).
IV.4. The transept
This architectural element fulfilled a functional role – the one of creating
an additional space around the chancel. It is an original creation of architects
during the reign of Constantine I, for answering the requirements resulting from
the development of the martyrs’ cult. The episcopal basilica of Histria and the T-
shaped basilica of Tropaeum Traiani have a prominent Greek transept.
VI.5. The apse (exedra)
Relating to the body of the edifices, they had a circular shape both inside
and outside. The basilica of (L)Ibida is the most representative three apse-edifice
of the province Scythia, a larger one corresponding to the central nave, and the
other two, smaller, belonging to the side naves. Towards the end of the 5
th
century
AD, but especially in the 6
th
century AD, polygonal apse appear in the Christian
architecture of Scythia Minor.
Abstract
335

IV.6. The bema
In the middle of the space closed by a banister (cancelli) there is the
chancel, reserved to the clergy and the religious ceremonies. This space is also
known under the name of presbyterium, but most of the time a neuter expression
is used, the “delimitation of the sanctuary”. The bema with the cancelli plates
mounted in the pilasters is taken over in the Judaic architecture. The presbyterium
was composed of the following elements: the chancel, the cathedra, the
synthronos and the crypt. The archeological researches pointed out the existence
of the synthronos of Histria (the extra muros basilica, the basilica in the southeast
corner of the fortress, the private chapel of Domus 3), Argamum (the main
basilica) and Tropaeum Traiani (the basilica with “transept”).
IV.7. The crypt (crypta)
To designate the crypt, in the ancient literary sources terms such as
confessio, hypogeum, martyrium (μαρτούρλιον) were used. On the territory of the
province Scythia, 14 crypts were discovered, which show inside architectural
elements (stairways, vaults, niches, pilasters), as well as special decorative
elements (flowers, garlands, geometric elements, marble imitation etc.).
Archeological excavations undertaken in the basilica of Halmyris, which we know
through direct researches, brings new completions both in the field of paleo-
Christian architecture, and in the field of the mural painting of the epoch of late
Antiquity. We also included a marble reliquarium discovered at Dionysopolis in
this subchapter.
IV.8. The pastophoria (diaconicon and prothesis)
In the eastern extension of the side naves there are two rooms flanking
the apse. These spaces, generically named pastophoria, fulfilled various roles: 1.
Storage and preparation of the gifts brought to the church – prothesis; 2. The
sacristy reserved to the clergy – diaconicon. These rooms appear in the first half
of the 4
th
century AD. The pastophoria come to be used as prothesis and
diaconicon following the introduction in the liturgy of the Cherubicon hymn and
of the Great Entrance Hymn. This situation is reflected in the planimetry of the
three apse - basilica of (L)Ibida, if the transept basilica of Tropaeum Traiani, as
well as in the large episcopal basilica of Histria.
IV.9. Adjacent funeral buildings (memoriae)
These constructions contain one room ending with an apse, such as those
of Axiopolis, Histria (the extra muros basilica), Argamum (basilica III). They were
meant for hosting the tombs of privileged personages, as well as the relics of local
saints.

Abstract
336

IV.10. The baptistery (βαπτιστήριον)
In relation to the body of the basilica, the baptisteries could be situated
both to the north, and the south, near the apse l, atrium, narthex or near the
annexes. Literary sources, even if they provide contradictory information
regarding their location, describe multiple roles plaid by these adjacent rooms of
the basilica. Thus, the baptistery could also be the place where some deviations
from the church norms would be judged. In the architectural landscape of the
Dobrujan ecclesiastic centers, one can remark the “marble” basilica of Tropaeum
Traiani, with its three-lobe plan baptistry, as well as the poly-lobed basin
discovered at Axiopolis. To these, we should also add the basilica II of Argamum,
in whose adjacent structures two basins, probably, with a baptismal role, were
also identified.
IV.11. The bishop’s residence (episcopium)
Researches on these episcopal palaces have increased visibility during
the last years, especially through the assembling of all pieces of archeological
information registered during the archeological excavations in the sector Domus
of the fortress Histria. The four living edifices (D1, D2, D, D4) were situated in a
quadrilateral space, located southeast of the large episcopal basilica. Domus 1
served as inn and workshop - store, Domus 2 was reserved to economic activities,
Domus 3, with a chapel, had the function of bishop’s house, while Domus 4 was the
place where administrative activities would be carried out. This is the most
complex episcopium discovered in Scythia Minor, where, like in the case of
Callatis, we find a combination between the church and the Roman residential
building.
V. ELEMENTS OF PLASTIC ART AND ORNAMENTATION
V.1. Cancelli (κάγκελλοι) plates
The cancelli plates separated the space of the sanctuary from the one of
the basilica itself. The cancelli of the paleo-Christian epoch are grouped into full
plates (plutei) and fretwork plates (transenne). The columns which framed the
cancelli plates sustained in the upper part an architrave (pergula). This chapter
attempted to valorize a partly unpublished archeological material consisting in
marble fragments from cancelli plates which protected the chancel of the large
episcopal basilica of Histria. The working methodology consisted in the analysis,
the 1:1 drawing of the items, so that in the end variants of restitution could be
provided.
The typological ordering of the architectural items resulting from the
large episcopal basilica of Histria generated a series of complex problems
regarding the marble origin, the ornamental motifs as well as a series of aspects
pertaining to the analogies with the closer or further spaces. In this direction,
models of such decorative elements were created for the basilicas of Philippi,
Abstract
337

Salona, Delos etc. At the same time, iconographic sources, especially the mosaics
in the baptistery of the cathedral of Ravenna as well as the textiles of Copt origin
which provided in the 5
th
– 6
th
centuries AD a source of inspiration for the variety
of geometric and floral motifs, were also used. Thus, the existence of full plates, as
well of others with floral (fleurons) and geometric (circles, rhombs) in the
openwork technique was identified. These were included together with such
elements discovered at Tomis, Callatis, Axiopolis.
V.2. Pergula pilasters and small column-shaped pillars
It seems the banister of the large episcopal basilica of Histria consisted in
marble plates framed by small column-shaped pillars flanked in the upper part by
an architrave, fact pointed out in the advanced models.
V.3. Capitals with or without fragments of small columns
The series of Histrian capitals with stylized achantus leaves end the
series of items resulting from the banister of the episcopal basilica, and allow the
reconstruction of the parapet elevation based on the preserved architectural and
decorative elements.
V.4. Altar tables (Mensa sacra)
Generically designated as “paleo-Christian” tables, they were used for the
deposition of the offerings, for the communion of the believers, for the prothesis
rite, for the cult of the deceased etc. Most of the items were made of marble, being
framed in the category of poly-lobed tables, as it is the case at the episcopal
basilica and the private chapel of the sector Domus 3 of Histria.
V.5. The painted rendering and stucco of the episcopal basilica of Histria
Two main categories can be distinguished: the painted rendering and
stucco of the southern nave and transept and the painted stucco of the same
southern compartments of the basilica. It was possible to recreate several panels
painted in the a fresco technique, ending in the upper part with friezes in relief
representing flowers, leaves and ivy spindles, rendered in the stucco technique.
Regarding the pigments mention should be made of two mineral ones (reddish
ochre and earth green) and an artificial compound, the Egyptian blue. It has been
considered until recently that the recipe for the preparation of this pigment was
lost during the final period of Antiquity. Fragments of rendering painted with
Egyptian blue are proofs of the usage of this pigment also in the 6
th
– 7
th
centuries
AD. Another very expensive mineral used in maitning the basilica of Beroe – that
is on the Danubean limes – is the jarosite. This mineral used at obtaining the
ocher- brown pigment, was coming from Laurion (Greece) or the Sahara desert.
For Scythia Minor iconographic analogies are limited to the painting ensembles in
the private crypts of Tomis and Axiopolis and the crypts of pale-Christian
basilicas (Beroe, Halmyris, Tropaeum Traiani, Tomis). Only few basilicas still
Abstract
338

showed inside vague traces of painting (the basilica with a crypt of Histria, the
basilica of Dinogeţia).
V.6. Lighting items. The glass storage in the adjacent structure of the
episcopal basilica of Histria
Typologically, the candelas with tubular base (glass for polycandela), with
rounded base, and also with concave are prevalent. 66 candelas belonging to the
chalice-shaped type with small hanging ear were also identified. From the
category of hemispherical bowls with unfinished rim mention should be made of
the simple and of the eared bowls. Bell-shaped candelas as well as bowls with
outer-turned rims, one high neck bottle and a small one were also identified. The
effects caused by the plastic elements (painted and sculptural ornaments), as well
as by the lighting system, created a very strong impression on believers who were
in the episcopal basilica of Histria fortress. Such impressions were put down in
the second half of the 4
th
century AD, by pilgrim Egeria, sensitive to what she had
seen when attending the religious ceremonies discovered in the basilica Anastasis
of Jerusalem: “inside the church there shine … countless torchères (infinita
luminaria lucent)” “and everywhere there hang (pendent) huge glass candelas
(candelae vitreae) and there are numerous candles”, “with regards to the number
and weight of the candlesticks (ceriofalis) or of the chandeliers (cincidelis),
torchères (lucernis) or of the various cult objects (diverso ministerio), how could
one ever count or describe them?” “And one should one say on the shining of the
edifice itself (de ornatu fabricae ipsius), which Constantine, through the case and
presence of his mother, ornamented with gold, mosaic and precious marble, from
throughout the richness of his empire”
1
.
VI. THE RELIGIOUS BYZANTINE PROGRAM AND ITS CONSEQUENCES ON
THE BASILICAS IN SCYTHIA
VI.1. Implementation of Constantine’s architectural program in Scythia
Minor
During Constantine, prayer houses are restituted to the Christians, and
new basilicas are built, reaching “heights never reached before and with more
greatness than they had before being destroyed”. Pagan temples are demolished,
and the resulting materials are used for building basilicas on top of their ruins.
Thus, at Tropaeum Traiani, the “cistern” basilica uses the substructions of a pagan
temple, and in the first existence phase, the “marble” basilica was built on top of
the ruins of a monumental edifice, probably a temple. The basilica of Topola was
probably built on top of a Thracian - Roman sanctuary. Architecturally, in Scythia
the basilica – type is adopted: rectangular plan split in three naves by two rows of
columns, ending with an apse. Dated to this period, in Dobruja we notice the

1 Vornicescu 1990, p. 354-357.
Abstract
339

presence of elements of planimetry which compose the basilicas: the atrium with
the phiale, the narthex, the three-nave naos, the presbyterium, the adjacent
structures, the episcopium.
VI.2. The religious and architectural program of Emperors Anastasius I and
Justinian I
The imperial ideology (both the one characterizing the reign of
Constantine, and the one of Justinian), in compliance with the Church ideology, is
identified in the planimetry and ornamentation of the basilicas on the considered
territory. We could follow the phases in their construction from laying the
foundation to the effect the religious compound would have on the believers, by
correlating archeological information with literary ones: ecclesiastic writings, law
corpuses, epigraphic information etc. During the reign of Justinian I the
construction of churches or monasteries was regulated by the laws (Novelae) 5 of
535 AD and 133 of 539 AD, which stipulated it was not possible to build them
without “the God lover bishop of those places, which shall raise the arms towards
the sky and through a blessing shall consecrate the place to God, by setting there
the sign of our salvation, the adored and righteously honored Cross and thus the
good and due foundation is also laid”. Probably the erection of a religious
construction would imitate an imperial gesture which occurred either in
Constantinople, or in other fortresses and which had an impact on the Scythan
community. For instance, the foundation of the church of Saints Kosmas and
Damian of Bizone probably represented a model in terms of gratitude to God and
the two thaumaturge saints for the emperor’s healing, manifested by the Church
of the province Scythia Minor, as well as an aspect of the imperial religious
ideology of late Antiquity transferred to the provinces of the Empire– the
extirpation of paganism. During the period of Justinian I, the architectural module
which becomes generalized is the Byzantine foot: 30.8 – 32 cm. The proportions
of the Christian basilica of the 6
th
century AD Dobruja are found in the episcopal
basilica of Histria (30.8 cm). The decorative program of this basilica is included in
the spirit of the epoch, as in ornamenting it an impressive quantity of marble from
Thasos Island was used. As a complement to the set of decorative elements
mention should be made of the set of glass candelas, which was discovered in one
of the northern adjacent structures of the episcopal basilica. This aspect also
confirms the compliance with the legal norms imposed by Justinian I, in
promoting a wide and detailed decorative program. Novela 67 issued by the
emperor in 538 AD – regarding the lighting system in the Christian basilicas –,
would recommend the creation of special funds for assuring a church’s lighting
system. Even if the few inscriptions on architectural elements (capitals,
architraves) refer to bishops, undoubtedly the highest hierarch of the fortress
was acting in his capacity of euergetes. The ample religious programs undertaken
at Tomis, Tropaeum Traiani, Histria, Callatis, (L)Ibida were for sure initiated by
bishops. To ornament the interior of the Christian basilcias with marble elements
Abstract
340

(shafts, capitals, pulpits, cancelli plates), the bishops would elaborate requests to
the imperial court for purchasing the architectural elements from imperial
quarries, such as Proconnesus of Propontida. It was probably in such a context
that Justinian I was referred to – in an inscription on an architrave discovered at
Callatis – “the construction lover” - [᾽Іουστινιανοῦ] τοῦ φιλωκτίστου. The
discovery of an impressive amount of marble in the context of the excavations
undertaken at the episcopal basilica of Histria represents an argument for
reopening the discussions as for the continuity of the harbor activity also in the
period of the late Antiquity. The centers on the littoral of the Black Sea – Tomis,
Histria, Callatis – were connected to the marble trade of the 5
th
century AD, but
especially during the reign of Justinian I, an etalon in analysis of these links can
be, in our view, the city of Chersones. The presence of an impressive number of
Christian edifices among which the basilica Uvarov is worth pointing out,
represents a reference point. The west-Pontic littoral represented an axis in this
sea transportation of marble. The planimetry of this basilica thus finds good
similitudes with the “marble” basilica of Tropaeum Traiani. The presence of
marble capitals with ram heads connect it directly to the “Syrian” basilica of
Callatis. In this episcopal center, the excavations of the 1920s, pointed out an
impressive number of decorative marble elements, among which a capital with
ram protomas is worth pointing out. The existence in the basilica of Uvarov of the
cancelli plates in the openwork technique, includes this north-Pontic center in the
area of propagation of the creations of the Constantinople schools. The
dissemination of these decorative elements – veritable marble embroideries –
also within the space of the province Scythia, at Histria (the episcopal basilica)
and Tomis (the large basilica), indicates that the imperial ideology characterizing
the reign of Justinian had reached its goal. One of the defining elements of this
religious ideology was art. The construction program encouraged by the Emperor
embraced a new form of ornamenting the basilicas: polychromy. Thus, the usage
of white marble in ornamenting basilicas of the province Scythia proves this
province was integrated into an “eastern cultural circle of Pontic-Aegean origin”.
One can notice a special interest for the aesthetic of colors, for the variation of
materials and of decorative elements. The importance of the imperial patronage
in erecting sumptuous constructions was thus demonstrated. Architectural
elements of white marble or other lithic materials of different colors were
associated with the ecclesiastic edifices. White marble becomes a symbol of the
Emperor’s and implicitly of the Church’s power. Therefore, the large religious
edifices in the cities of the province Scythia having a grandiose architecture and
splendid interior ornamentations – (Tomis – the large basilica), Histria (the
episcopal basilica and palace), Callatis (the “Syriain” basilica), Tropaeum Traiani
(the “marble” basilica), (L)Ibida (the basilica in the fortress), Zaldapa (basilica no.
1) – confirm the almightiness of Christian faith of Neceeano-Chalcedonian type,
strongly sustained financially by the imperial authorities of the epoch.
Abstract
341

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
During the 4
th
– 5
th
centuries AD, the religious situation of the province
Scythia was a special one, as specified by Emperor Zenon’s Constitution. Apart
from the fact that the region was facing numerous Barbarian invasions, the
special statute known also as “the Scythan exception” continued in fact a tradition
introduced already in the 2
nd
century. The missionary activity within the territory
was entrusted to the rural bishops and priests. Within the latter category, the
oldest priest name known in Scythia is Bonosus, who carried out his mission in
the fortress of Halmyris. For the 5
th
– 6
th
centuries, other degrees within the
church hierarchy have also been attested, such as: presbyters, hypodeacons,
lecturers, bursars. The reigns of Emperors Anastasius and Justinian represented
for Scythia a phase in the urbanism reconstruction, fact certified by the repairing
undertaken under the aegis of such emperors. The increase of the number of
bishops on the Danubean limes at the end of the 5
th
century and at the beginning
of the following century must be connected to the missionary activity which the
hierarchs had to fulfill beyond the river, in the areas inhabited by the
autochthonous, and also by the migrators. For sure, high rank priests in these
fortresses intervened in the political and diplomatic problems, mediating certain
negotiations between the migrators and Constantinople. In the 4
th
– 6
th
centuries
AD, the center of the Dobrujan spiritual life was the city, where the Christian
basilicas were located, and also the episcopal quarters (episkopia), which held an
important place in terms of inter-confessional relations. The period of the 4
th
– 6
th

centuries AD is considered the “epoch of the paleo-Christian basilica”. It was
during this interval that Scythia Minor enjoyed a maximal cultural prosperity
which was under the sign of the economic success, and especially under the
influence of Christianity. The period is characterized through a rich architectural
and artistic activity, sustained by the State and the Church. Practically, one can
talk for the entire period of a maecenate of the Constantinople emperors and of
the Church leaders. During the reign of Justinian, splendid architectural works–
such as St. Sofia of Constantinople, St. John of Ephesus – are erected under the
coordination of great architects (Isidorus of Milet, Anthemios of Tralles), whose
fame shall last throughout centuries. It is then that the basis of a new type of
architectural solution was being found, through the creation of the cupola, which
shall later be rediscovered and amplified during the Renaissance. All the
urbanism-related modifications are decided in the capital city of the Empire, thus
being elaborated canons for architecture, sculpture and painting. Due to the
special care for the Christian constructions, the Roman-Byzantine Emperors shall
be assigned numerous designations: „φιλάνθρωπος βαςιλύς”, „φιλοκτίστης”,
„φιλοχρίστου” etc. Cities are ornamented with numerous grandiose edifices,
among which mention should be made of the thermae and Christian basilicas. The
Emperor erects colossal constructions (palaces, villae) for himself, following the
model of previous sovereigns (Diocletian, Constantine I and Theodosius I). We
can in fact notice also certain tendencies of distancing from the Greek Roman
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classicism, but in spite of this situation architects continue to find their
inspiration in the traditional elements and countless monuments of the pagan
epoch. The influence of Constantinople and of other Byzantine centers in Asia
Minor or the basin of the Aegean Sea (Ephesus, Miletus), and also of further
regions, especially Syria and Egypt, developed fully throughout the territory of
Scythia Minor. All these links were done by sea, an important place being the one
of the west-Pontic cities (Tomis, Histria and Callatis), which synthetized the
architectural influences which had penetrated in the area, providing them with an
own character. There were also created direct links on land routes between the
main centers in the north of continental Greece (Tessalonike, Philippi) or in Dacia
Mediteranea (Iustiniana Prima), and certain cities in the south of Dobruja, such as
Tropaeum Traiani and Zaldapa. Christian architectural elements also penetrated
north the Danube, a territory where there Christian basilicas were identified – at
Izvoarele (Mehedinţi co.), Slăveni (Olt co.) and Sucidava (Olt co.). Among all cities
of the province Scythia, Histria – the place where systematic researches allowed
the determination, based on stratigraphy, of the evolution of Chrisitan basilicas
starting already with the 4
th
century AD– represents the clearest example of the
different influences and manifestations pertaining to the field of paleo-Christian
architecture. The large episcopal basilica in the center of the late Roman city
imposes through its monumentality, also characterized by its dimensions (58 m
of length and 28 m of width), being one of the most magnificent constructions of
this type in the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The existence of an
episcopal see (episkopion) in the neighborhood suggest that Histria was one of the
most important religious sites of the west-Pontic space. Bishops and priests were
the most important personages within the urban communities, being in charge of
the coordination of the matters of religious affairs and also of the politico-
administrative ones. The chapel of Domus is a miniature transposition of the
episcopal basilica, having certain elements similar thereto: the pentagonal apse
on the outside, the existence of a crypt, the altar table and capitals - impost,
reflecting the design of an architecturally unitary compound. The church was the
only one which could really sustain a wide architectural program, in this territory
continuously attacked by various peoples. Archeological excavations led to the
identifications of 53 Christian basilicas, among which only three have a probably
Christian character. In the frontier provinces of the Empire one can notice an
increase of the role of the episcopal institution. Sometimes, bishops serve as
substitutes to the military commander of a fortress, organizing the defense of the
fortifications in parallel to the missionary activity in the barbaricum. In Scythia
Minor, the very large number of ecclesiastic edifices and of episcopal sees
(episkopia) becomes the unchallenged symbol of the bishop’s spiritual, legal and
administrative authority, particularly sustained by the Byzantine imperial
legislation. The political stability registered on the Lower Danube during the
period of Anastasius – Justinian was an element of consolidation of the Tomitan
metropolitanate, through the accession to the rank of bishopric of 14 fortresses
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located both inside the province, and on the two limes: Danubean and Pontic.
Therefore, the Byzantine policy in Scythia Minor and on the Lower Danube was
one prevalently Christian. Throughout its existence the province Scythia Minor
and its inhabitants enjoyed a special attention from the Empire, due to its
strategic importance within the general security of the Empire, being also a
bastion of Christianity, thanks to a very high density of Christian edifices, grouped
within an extremely narrow space.



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