to the building on the narrow sides faced the presbytery. Anyone entering a Christian basilica had to cover a certain distance in order to reach the presbytery and the altar. The side aisles could serve to separate men and women, while the middle aisle was set aside for clerics, processions, festivals and official church meetings. Oftentimes the middle aisle contained a solea, a walled passageway used by the clerics as an entrance to the presbytery during processions. The middle aisles of Greek churches contained an ambo (pulpit). Separating the presbytery from the nave lent the Christian basilica a distinctly elongated shape that was an innovation in that the profane Roman basilica could never be transversed lengthways only. The decision to build multi-nave columned basilicas was not made on the grounds that this was a more suitable arrangement for religious purposes than, for example, an undivided space with columns. The basilica has always been regarded as a particularly ornate and sophisticated architectural form.
Constantine's construction programme had a far-reaching impact on his era. The basilica form he favoured was adopted throughout the Mediterranean region during the fourth century, including in relatively remote regions such as the Limestone Massif of northern Syria: Fafertin (372), Babiska Markianos Kyris church (390-407), the church ofJulianos in Brad (390-402), Harab Sams and Burg Heidar (mid-fourth century).43 Although Christian basilicas in the region's small villages emulatedbasilica architecture, they were also extremely innovative since they were ex novo constructions that interpreted the aesthetic principle of varietas in a strikingly distinctive manner. Their most consequential feature was that the types of capitals used varied from one pair of columns to the next. For example, the Harab Sams basilica contains an Ionic capital adjacent to a Tuscan capital with four leaves, followed by another Tuscan capital with volutes on all four corners. The Limestone Massif in northern Syria manifested more creativity with the basilica form than any other Mediterranean region.
The basilica was particularly favoured by bishops, although it was a popular choice among donors as well. This type of construction was the most successful in evokingpraestigium (which in this context we can freely render as 'ambition') among the faithful. Of course, we do know of some exceptions to this rule, such as the double church complex with a baptistery in Aquileia that was constructed early in Constantine's reign. Both churches are devoid of apses, are rectangular, are divided into three naves by pillars and had a functional air in that their pillars were so far apart that only a wooden architrave or low clerestory were constructed above them. The richly coloured andin some cases
43 G. Tchalenko, Les eglises syriennes aBema.
7ii figurative floor mosaics are extremely unusual for the period. The decorative, non-Christian sections of the floor mosaics at Aquileia were selected and financed by various donors, whereas the church or the bishop (Theodorus) decided to install in the presbytery a depiction of the story of Jonah, which is ensconced in a large aquatic landscape and was chosen with a view to pictorialising the cardinal doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh.44
Ambrose was the 'Constantine' of Milan in the realm of church construction. Just as Constantine had erected the first episcopal church with a baptistery in Rome (S. Giovanni in Laterano) and a series of martyr's churches (St Peter's, St Paul's, S. Lorenzo, S. Agnese, SS. Marcellino e Pietro) outside the city walls, Ambrose likewise constructed the cathedral baptistery in S. Giovanni in Fonte as well as three martyrs' memorials (S. Nazaro, S. Ambrogio, S. Simpliciano) outside the city walls of Milan. Ambrose adopted Constantine's approach to church construction, except of course for the fact that Milan, like so many other cities and unlike Rome, lacked apostolic martyrs of its own and hence had no martyrs' burial places that had been prominent since before the reign of Constantine. Martyrs' relics were not discovered in Milan until the late fourth century; in fact, Ambrose was instrumental in locating them. The best-preserved early Christian martyrs' basilicas in Milan are the Basilica Apostolo-rum (S. Nazaro; 382) andS. Simpliciano. For these structures, Ambrose chose a cross-shaped plan whose space was not subdivided by columns, as was the case in privately financed buildings and above all the grand style of imperial architecture. The relics ofthe apostles (whose provenance is unknown) were placed in a silver reliquary at the crossing of the church, with St Nazarus' relics in the main apse. Four fifth-century bishops ofMilan were honoured with cenotaphs near the apostles' relics. The apostles' church, which became a burial church for Milan's leading citizens, is architecturally unique, and has neither predecessors nor successors. Ambrose characterised the cruciform structure with the following epigram: forma crucis templum est templum victoria christi .45 Ambrose applies this interpretation to a church structure that was one of the earliest cruciform churches in Christian architecture. The architectural innovation here was that the church was not only cruciform inside, but visibly formed a cross from the outside as well.
Ambrose dotted the perimeter of Milan with four new structures that were placed on the four end points of an imaginary cross superimposed on the city. The Basilica Apostolorum at the southern end of Milan corresponded to
44 See further ch. 8, above.
45 ILCV, i: n. 1800: 'The church is in the shape of a cross, the (cruciform) cross signifies the victory of Christ.'
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