Temple of Apollo Klarios

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To the west of the Lower Agora, on top of a natural hill, enlarged towards the west by impressive buttressed terrace walls in polygonal masonry, the remains of a late antique church are visible. Its building elements indicated that it replaced a temple situated on this same location. The implantation of this temple was well chosen, as it completely dominated the lower city and through its layout turned the Lower Agora into a kind of forecourt. In addition, was visible from the south end of the Early Imperial North-South Colonnaded Street, or the main access to the city.

Temple

Based on the architectural fragments found in the area, the original temple was a small building peripteros with 6 by 11 unfluted columns on top a temple podium. On top of the Ionic capitals of the peristasis an entablature consisting of an architrave, a pulvinated frieze and a cornice, all completely plain, supported a steep, undecorated gable. The temple was surrounded by a temenos wall - enclosing an area of nearly 59 by 52 m - with several gates which gave access to the sanctuary from different directions. The main gates were situated on the north and east sides. The remains of this sanctuary indicate that it was changed several times throughout its existence. Based on the architectural decoration of certain architectural elements, its original lay-out, consisting of the cella and the temenos wall, could be dated to the reign of the emperor Augustus. This date was corroborated by the find of ash layers including a large amount of Late-Hellenistic ceramics, which probably represent the remains of the first foundation sacrifice. The close association between the emperor and god may have given rise to an implicit imperial worship, which later on, in Flavian times, resulted in the establishment of the imperial cult in the sanctuary. A major reorganisation, possible after earthquake damage, involved the construction of a new peristasis to which the current columns and the plain entablature may belong, as well as the placement of wall veneer inside. This second phase could be dated to AD 103-104, on the basis of a building inscription seen and recorded by the Polish count Karl Graf von Lanckoronski in the late 19th c.

In situ elements of the temple remain scanty. It now seems that the bedrock on top of the hill was flattened for its construction. The row of stones on which today the columns of the northern church aisle are positioned might have already been put in place in this period, possibly as support for the original cella walls. Further, both inside and outside the later church, remains of the temple pavement were retrieved. In addition, to the east of the church apse, the upper section of a staircase cut in the rock was encountered. This in all likelihood connected the temenos area with a cryptoporticus established in between the temple terrace and the Agora.

At some moment in time, probably occurred at the end of the 4th c., the temple went out of use. Soon afterwards, it was replaced by a tripartite transept-basilica, with a length of 31.30 m and a width of 16.60 m, which reused most of the architectural elements of the former sanctuary: the colonnades on the building’s shorter east and west sides were dismantled and the longer colonnades on the north and south were extended to create three aisles separated by two rows of 11 columns. Over these 3 m wide side-aisles a gallery was present, as suggested by the beam holes in the columns. At the same time, the walls of the cella as well as the steps of the krepis were dismantled and its stones were reused in the construction of new walls built outside the colonnade. The building was thus literally turned inside out. A small transept, which on the inside was only 1.3 m wider than the nave, was inserted near the apse. It was accessible through two doors in its east walls. Preceding the apse was a bema or altar podium with a length of 5.63-5.80 m. The altar area was closed off by a chancel screen consisting of marble piers holding marble plates with relief decoration, while its floor was originally covered with marble slabs laid in a mortar bed. Judging by the large amounts of marble slabs, glass tesserae and fragments of painted wall plaster found in the excavated deposits, the walls of the building were decorated with crustae or wall veneering, glass mosaics and frescoes. To the west, the nave was preceded by a narthex and a small and remarkably narrow courtyard. It could be entered from the north through one of the original gates in the temenos wall of the Apollo Klarios Temple.

The conversion of the temple into a church is now tentatively dated in the first half of the 5th c. This would coincide with the dominating position of the hill above the Lower Agora and the Colonnaded Street. The presence of a ruinous temple on such a commanding position was most likely not beneficial for the image of the town towards outsiders.

This late antique church was not destroyed after an earthquake around AD 590 levelled large parts of the city. After a period of abandonment or at least robbing, the church was re-occupied. Both entrances to the transepts were sealed off by shoddy walls; a new fill was installed in both the northern and the southern transept; a new floor was laid in the southern transept, while the presence of a mortarium indicates the space was used for more secular purposes. In the central aisle a smaller, badly preserved structure appeared. The date of these late alterations remains unknown: they were first dated to the 11th c., on the basis of coin and ceramic finds from the floor level and substrate, whereas the ceramics found in another sounding in the south transept, as well as those retrieved in the area of the church atrium, suggested occupation somewhere in the period between the late 7th/8th and the 9th c.

The cemetery

In the area to the south of the Church, excavations have uncovered part of a Christian cemetery. Though in the past a grave was tentatively assigned to the Mid-Byzantine period, the origin and period of use of this necropolis remains unclear. The presence of a graveyard implies that at the moment of its installation, the church was still functioning as such. The earliest tombs might thus very well predate the dismantling of the Church’s decoration.