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The Basilica of St. Pachomius Author(s): Peter Grossmann Reviewed work(s): Source: The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol.

42, No. 4, The Nag Hammadi Library and Its Archeological Context (Autumn, 1979), pp. 232-236 Published by: The American Schools of Oriental Research Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/11/2012 21:07
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Peter Grossmann After the third season of excavating, several new architecturalfeatures were discovered which helped Grossmann to restore the original shape of the basilica.








After the second season of the Nag Hammadi excavation at the end of 1976 the interpretation of the excavated architectural remains at QiblTwas somewhat uncertain F.w (Van Elderen and Robinson 1977a: 57-73; 1977b: 36-54). During work at QiblTin 1977-78, however, F.w several new features of the. basilica were uncovered so that it is now possible to create a relatively clear idea of the original shape of the church. The archeological team was able to determine how far the main structure of the church extended in all four directions. It appears that the great basilica of QiblTwas a very long building F.w aisles, with a return aisle along of five the west side (as is usual in early Christian architecture in Egypt), and probably a fine sanctuary at the east side. The western return aisle and the outer aisles on both sides of the nave are particularly narrow and, thus, demonstrate that they belong together architecturally. They form something of an ambulatory surrounding the three inner aisles on three sides. Doors must have existed in the west wall as the western row of columns would allow. The three inner aisles are considerably wider than the ambulatory. Contrary to the usual situation in Egyptian churches, these inner aisles do not differ very much from each other in width. The central nave is narrower than the combined width of the inner side aisles; in relation to other examples of aisles in Egyptian churches, this must be considered as Square5 from the Basilicaof St. Pachomius,showingseverallargestorage pots and a columnwhichfell onto the burnedlevel (left).

DecoratedstonefromSquare11of the Basilicaof St. Pachomius (opposite).



really quite narrow. (By comparison, in the North Basilica of Abu Mena, an example of a more typical Egyptian church, the nave is three times as wide as the aisles; cf. Jaritz 1970: 69ff., fig. 7.) Perhaps in the particular case of the great basilica at Fdw QiblT,the group of three aisles in the center of the church replaces the single nave in the ordinary basilica. In addition, it is surprising that in front of the eastern wall of the nave (Square 10), where the end of the inner northern stylobate is to be expected, no indication of such a stylobate was uncovered. Thus, the possibility must not be excluded that at the last column the stylobate was turned toward the center of the nave. Two inner columns may have been added in front of the apse, like those in the basilica in the court of the temple of Medinet Habu at Thebes; in this way something like a secondary triumphal arch may have been formed. In the case of the basilica of Fdw Qibli, however, I am unable to restore these additional columns in such a way that the space between them corresponds correctly with the presumed width of the apse (Villard 1954: 51-53, fig. 57). The separation of the different aisles is accomplished by the use of four rows of huge, reused granite columns. Where the lengths could easily be measured, the complete

shafts are with one exception 5.35-5.38 m long. This conformity in length contrasts markedly with both the irregularities in the position of the columns and the differences in the elevation of the bases. Furthermore, two different types of columns are to be distinguished: one type has a fully developed entasis (a slight convexity in a shaft of a column) and traditional profiles on the top and the footing, as they are known from the Hellenistic and Roman periods; the other type is without entasis and already has the profiles of the Byzantine column. In spite of these differences, however, one should not conclude that these columns were produced during widely separated periods of time. The first type of column shaft was used for the inner rows of columns on both sides of the central nave, and the second type was used for the two outer rows between the inner and the outer side aisles. The stylobate was raised about 40 cm above the floor level. To facilitate movement from one aisle to the other, small steps were constructed in the stylobate. A part of the floor could be identified at the eastern end of the inner left aisle where a few limestone slabs of the original pavement remained in situ (Square 11). Nearby, two large granite pedestals of the northern inner row of columns survived in relatively good condition.








Although little of it has been uncovered, the sanctuary of the church had two northern side chambers separated from one another by a rather thin wall. At the same time, the outer walls at the northeast corner are unusually thick. One should note, however, that this is the case only for the foundation, which was constructed in this manner to provide the corner especially with greater strength. In the much smaller main church at the monastery of Apa Jeremias at Saqqira, large blocks of granite were used for the same purpose (cf. Grossmann 1973: 145-46, fig. 1). Wace, however, tried to explain the same feature in the basilica of Hermopolis Magna by suggesting a staircase inside the north wall, but this explanation does not seem very satisfactory (cf. Wace, Megaw, and Skeat 1959: 49, pls. 4, 5). The apse and the chambers on the south side of the sanctuary are situated below some houses of the modern village of Fdw Qibli. There is no doubt, however, that the arrangement of rooms on both sides of the apse was more or less symmetrical. Since the central nave was quite narrow, the apse must not have been very large. At the west end of the church there is reason to surmise that there was an open narthex, although to date no positions of it have been uncovered. Its existence is indicated, however, by certain granite bases which were placed near the west end of the church. These bases are of a very different shape from the pedestals used for the inner rows of columns within the church. Finally, the church also possessed a portico along its north side. Since many column bases are to be found along the north side (though many have been overturned), this outer portico must have extended nearly the entire length of the church. Only the foundations of the walls of the church have survived. They are of extraordinary breadth (north wall-2.30 m; northeast corner2.90 m). Above the ground, however, the walls must have been considerably smaller. If one reduces the breadth of the inner edge by about 20 cm and the outer edge by about 30 cm, the




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remaining breadth of the wall will still be about 1.80 m. A similar breadth is to be found in the outer wall of the so-called White Monastery, a church of about the same size as the great basilica of Fdw Qibli; the walls of the White Monastery are 1.75 m thick (Evers and Romero 1964: 175-77, fig. A). During the time when the church was in use, and even later, the area of the church was used extensively for burials. Along the walls and stylobates a large number of burials were uncovered. Many of the bodies were placed in a wooden coffin framed with brickwork. Remains of an earlier period of occupation were uncovered at two locations at the site (Square 5/6 and Square 11). For stratigraphic reasons it may be concluded that these remains belong to the middle of the 4th century A.D. The remains in Square 5/6, already known from the 1976-77 season (Van Elderen and Robinson 1977a: 57-73; 1977b: 36-54), include a section of a thick brick wall and a foundation wall which may be understood as a stylobate. During this past season, at a distance of ca. 22 m east of Square 5/6, a similar brick wall was uncovered in Square 11; this wall also forms a northeast corner. With good reason one may assume that this wall belongs to the same structure. Both walls are of equal breadth and correspond fairly well in their alignment. Consequently, the new section of wall represents the east end of that earlier building. The previously mentioned foundation wall, which has some similarity to a stylobate, gives the impression that this building, which is nearly parallel to the great basilica, is also a church. For stratigraphic reasons it must be dated to about the middle of the 4th century. It probably belongs to the time of Pachomius since Pachomian legend maintains that he erected a church at Faw QiblT(Pabau). (Although the construction of an oratory is not recorded in the Vita Prima Graeca, chap. 54 [Halkin 1932a: 36-37], it is reported in the Bohairic Life of Pachomius, chap. 49 [Lefort 1943: 115-16]. In the legendary Paralipomena, chap. 32 [Halkin 1932b: 157-58], the church is described



Square1 of Basilicaof St. Pachomius, showinga columnthat fell onto the burnedlevel of the I Ith-century destruction by Hikim. as constructed of bricks; when it was completed, Pachomius found it too handsome and had the monks twist the columns out of position in order to take the beauty from it. The legend, reporting the pulling down of the columns, occurs in the Vatican manuscript 819 of the Greek Life of Pachomius [Mertel 1917: 68].) If this conclusion is correct, this church was also a rather large church in comparison with some other early examples found at Kellia (Daumas 1969: 49698, fig. 12; Kasser 1972: 72, pl. 31) and Antinoopolis (Leclant 1970: 336; I was informed by Manfredi of the 4th-century date of this church). Since there is no evidence of a corresponding stylobate in Square 1,



the nave of this earlier church would be more than 10 m wide. In addition, it would be of particular interest to learn whether such an early church possessed a return aisle and was furnished with chambers alongside the apse. In the 5th century both of these features became characteristic elements of the early Christian churches in Egypt. For the moment, however, since there is no indication of a stylobate near the northeast corner, it seems that this area represents part of the chamber on the northern side of the sanctuary. Consequently, there is some hope that at least the triumphal arch for the entrance of the apse is situated in an area that is not occupied by a modern building.

Basilica of St Pachomius at FRw Qibl Architect's Reconstruction 0!

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Daumas, F. 1969 Rapport sur l'activit6 de l'Institut franqais d'Archeologie orientale du Cairo au cours des annees 1968-1969. Comptes rendus de I'Acadimie des inscriptions et belles-lettres. Paris: Acad6mie des Sciences. Evers, H. G., and Romero, R. 1964 Rotes und Weisses Kloster bei Sohag/ Probleme der Rekonstruktion. Pp. 175-95 in Christentum am Nil, ed. K. Wessel. Internationale Arbeitstagung zur Austellung "Koptische Kunst," Essen, Villa Hiigel, 2325 Juli 1963. Recklinghausen: A. Bongers. Grossmann, P. 1973 Reinigungsarbeiten im Jeremiaskloster bei Saqqara. Zweiter vorlaufiger Bericht. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archdologischen Instituts Kairo 28: 145-52, tables xxxvi-xxxix. Halkin, F., ed. 1932a Vita Prima Graeca. Pp. 1-96in Sancti Pachomii Vitae Graecae. Bruxelles: Soci(t& des Bollandistes. 1932b Paralipomena. Pp. 122-65 in Sancti Pachomii Vitae Graecae. Bruxelles: Soci6te des Bollandistes.

Jaritz, H. 1970

Nordbasilika. Pp. 69-74 in Peter Grossmann, Abu Mena: Siebenter vorliufiger Bericht. Mitteilung des Deutschen Archiiologischen Instituts Kairo 26: 53-82.

Kasser, R. 1972 Kellia: Topographie. Recherches suisses d'archeologie copte 2. Geneve: Georg. Leclant, J. 1970 Fouilles et travaux en Egypte et au Soudan, 1968-1969. Orientalia 39: 320-74, tables xv-liii. Lefort, L. Th. 1943 Les vies coptes de Saint Pachome et de ses premierssuccesseurs, in Bibliotheque du Musion 16. Mertel, H. 1917 Athanasius II, in Bibliothek der Kirchenviter 31. Van Elderen, B., and Robinson, J. M. 1977a The Second Season of the Nag Hammadi Excavation 22 November29 December 1976. G6ttingen Miszellen 24: 57-73. 1977b The Second Season of the Nag Hammadi Excavation 22 November29 December 1976. American Research Center in Egypt Newsletter 99/100: 36-54.

Villard, U. Monneret de 1954 A report written in 1934quoted by U. H61scher. Pp. 51-54 in The Excavation of Medinet Habu V PostRamessid Remains, by U. H61scher, Oriental Institute Publications 66. Chicago: University of Chicago. Wace, A. I. B.; Megaw, A. H. S.; and Skeat, T. C. 1959 Hermopolis Magna, Ashmunein. Alexandria: Alexandria University.

Peter Grossmann, the leading specialist in Coptic church architecture, is a member of the permanent staff of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo. He is an architect by training.


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