Basilica B (of the Bishop Alkison)

Aerial photo of Basilica B

Basilica B (of the Bishop Alkison)

Basilica B, also known as the basilica of the Bishop Alkison, lies in the northwest part of Early Christian Nicopolis about fifty meters east of its western wall. It belonged to a larger religious complex extending over a total area of about 5900 square meters, which included the splendid basilica, a partially-excavated baptistery, and various other annexes. Due to its large size and costly construction, it is believed to have been the cathedral church of Nicopolis and the seat of its archbishop (metropolitan). The church was a five-aisled timber-roofed basilica with a tripartite transept which did not project beyond the side aisles. We still do not know to which saint this splendid church was dedicated

A road with N-S direction (cardo) of the Roman city passed by west of the church. Along the west side of the church and its annexes, the road was roofed by a sort of portico which had two monumental main entrances on the north and south with triple openings (tribela).

The atrium porticos had mosaic floors decorated in large rotae siricae in which primarily geometric motifs were recorded. In the east part of the atrium and in contact with the narthex wall there are remains of a rectangular built reservoir.

East of the atrium was the narthex, whose floor had a mosaic decoration of geometric designs. The central doorway, the Royal Gate, which had a marble frame with convex-concave (cyma recta) moldings, was restored by Anastasios Orlandos in 1964. Four porticos, each composed of twelve monolithic columns, created the five aisles of the nave, which were of different widths.

The free-standing altar table occupied the central position in the sanctuary. It was covered by a marble ciborium resting on four columns. In the sanctuary apse there was a built podium with five semicircular steps atop which the bishop’s throne was placed. Priests sat on the “lower range” of two-step benches, the subsellia (συμψέλλια) on either side of the podium. Behind the podium was the ambulatory (κύκλιον). Excavation outside the apse located the continuation of this Roman building and part of a mosaic floor with a bucolic scene of very high artistic quality.

At about the center of the south side of the central aisle, there are preserved remains of the ambo, whose floor was formed by with a cylindrical marble pedestal-base. The base made of Pentelic marble and with a relief scene of an Amazonomachy around its circumference, had once supported a colossal male portrait statue of the 2nd century AD. During the incorporation of the pedestal base into the ambo, part of the representation was carved off and replaced with mosaic decoration, from which two busts of figures in circular medallions are preserved.

Pedestal base of the ambo; the mosaic that covered the ancient relief

Not far north of the church, an oblong structure was found. This building, which has been partially excavated, is identified as the Baptistery. The annexes on the southwest side of the church were configured around the circumference of a small paved atrium containing two wells. On one of these, a cylindrical altar was used as a well-head after its center was carved out. The altar was dedicated to Asclepius according to the inscription ASKLEPIOU (ΑCΚΛΗΠΙΟΥ) preserved on its surface. The annexes are rectangular or apsidal in plan, and their floors are paved with inlaid marble or mosaics. The discovery of two staircases attests to the presence of an upper floor. The floor of room C, whose use remains unknown, was decorated with a splendid mosaic similar to that in the basilica’s narthex. A fragmentarily-preserved inscription just below the entrance threshold mentions the Bishop Alkison as founder. The latter was a well-known Bishop of Nicopolis during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius (491-519 AD), and the erection of the southwest annexes is attributed to him.

The erection of Basilica B is dated to the middle or second half of the 5th century. Generally speaking, three building phases are distinguishable for interventions following the erection of the church. The first was associated with the Bishop Alkison, and is dated to the late 5th-early 6th century and in any event prior to 516, the year of his death. The second repair phase is placed in the mid-6th century and associated with the Bishop Dometius (Doumetios) (probably Dometius II). The third phase is dated to the late 6th-early 7th century, and involved interventions to the atrium, the annexes, and the portico west of the basilica.

The altar of Asclepius

Basilica B, also known as the basilica of the Bishop Alkison, is believed to have been the cathedral church of Nicopolis and the seat of its archbishop (metropolitan) due to its large size and costly construction.

Marble coffer with rosette


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