east side of the octagonal baptistery contains a spacious apse and a small basin, the aspirants entering the building through a door in the north side and leaving it through a second door in the south side. This arrangement enabled candidates to be 'rushed through' the basin without entering the baptistery proper; once baptised, the neophyte could enter the church on the south end of the complex.36
The baptistery of the church of St Theodore (from 494) in Gerasa (Jerash in today's Jordan)37 contained a mini-apse that could be traversed in a few strides. This appears to have been the first martyr's church in Gerasa (see below), but it is very much open to question whether or not the church attracted as many baptismal candidates as St Simeon's pilgrimage site at Kalat Seman. Moreover, the form of the church does not provide conclusive evidence as to its exact function. Only a few decades later, between 531 and 533, two prominent citizens of Gerasa financed construction of the church of St John, St Cosmas and St Damian. This tripartite church complex is only a stone's throw from St Theodore's to the east. The complex can in a sense be regarded as rivalling the cathedral complex since three churches rather than two had been assimilated into a single complex. One could see this as a kind of architectural 'one-upmanship'. The baptistery at the church of St John was intended to be a competitor for the baptistery at the church of Theodore, which had been constructed a mere three decades previously. We do not know if the new complex was ever used. But be that as it may, it should be regarded as the manifestation of exalted aspiration on the part of the city's nouveau riche private patrons, who built a species of'private double cathedral' that they then enlarged into a 'triple cathedral'.
There are numerous reasons for the presence of multiple baptisteries in the same geographical location. Why would the Aegean island of Kos alone contain seven preserved early Christian baptisteries? The North African city of Leptis Magna was reported to have been the site of four baptisteries. And in the tiny agricultural settlement of Dar Qita in northern Syria, two baptisteries were constructed within a period of only a few decades. The chorepiscopos, who administered the rites of baptism on each Theophany (6 January) or on Easter Saturday, had to decide in which church the ceremony should be performed. But how did he decide? In the Latin West, it was customary to erect a single baptistery in agricultural villages. An outstanding example of a
36 J. Lassus, Sanctuaires chrétiens de Syrie, 226-7, fig. 96.
37 For a more extensive treatment of Christian architecture in Gerasa, see Brenk, Die Christianisierung der spatromischen Welt, 10-24; B. Brenk, Architettura e immagini, 12-14, 20-23, 249-52.
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