The problem of origins: the civil basilica. The architects of the Renaissance, who first raised the question of the origin of the Christian basilica, were unaware of this variety. They naturally thought to derive it from the Roman civil basilica. This theory was later refuted, since for a long time no civil basilicas transformed into churches indisepensable for a demonstration were found. In the last 50 years such reutilizations have been found, e.g., at Leptis Magna and Sabratha Libya, Tipasa Algeria, Bolsena Italy etc.; but in any case they are late since, save to avoid destruction, there was no reason to modify the function of these buildings, which were indispensable for municipal life. 5. The Hellenistic-Roman house.
The great excavations of Pompei and Herculanum drew attention to the Hellenistic-Roman house, and the fashionable theory at the beginning of the 20th c. maintained, under the pretext that the Christians first met in private houses, that churches were derived from the Roman house atrium or peristyle + tablinum main axial room and alae lateral annexes = atrium + three-aisled hall; or else atrium = nave and main room = apse. Though we know many cases of churches installed in rooms of aristocratic houses at Rome e.g., the basilica of Junius Bassus or in the provinces e.g., Qirq-Bize, see above; Mactar in Tunisia, it is evident that the transformation from private house to public building is not a natural procedure for the architect; moreover, on the technical level the typology is completely different.
6. Pagan and Jewish places of worship: the funerary basilica. Meanwhile, since the classical GrecoRoman temple, intended to house the divine statue rather that the whole congregation, could not be a prototype though, after being abandoned, large temples were often used as churches and small ones as baptisteries, attempts were made, in the name of the kinship of all Eastern religions, much studied between the two world wars, to compare the Christian basilica to the meeting places of the mystery religions, which sometimes have a vaguely basilical form: the mithraea of the Persian god Mithras, long a rival of Christianity, or the Roman hypogeum of Porta Maggiore, attributed by J. Carcopino to a Pythagorean sect. But their dimensions, uses and technical characteristics differ profoundly. Knowledge esp. since Sukenik’s work of Palestinian synagogues, which sometimes show a basilical plan e.g., at Capernaum, led some to ask whether the synagogue might not have influenced the Christian meeting place through Jewish-Christian mediation; but the dates of these buildings have since been brought forward and, to the extent to which they are contemporary with well-characterized churches, the influence may turn out to be in the opposite direction. At the time of the Second World War, C.
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