Early Byzantine churches in Macedonia and southern Serbia

Ralph Hoddinott



- Preface

- Acknowledgements




In the last thirty years archaeology has transformed the picture of Macedonia and Southern Serbia between the fourth and seventh centuries from the almost blank hinterland of Thessalonica (or Salonica) into an important source of Early Byzantine history and art. Two examples will suffice to illustrate the measure of this change, which for the most part has been the work of Greek and Yugoslav archaeologists, although others, too, have made valuable contributions. At Caričin Grad, during the thirties and since the Second World War, the ruins of a city founded by Justinian the Great have gradually been uncovered from the soil of a remote and previously unremarkable Serbian hillock. A unique example of sixth-century town planning, the buildings enclosed within its walls included an episcopal palace and five major churches. At Philippi, only five years ago, excavations were begun which revealed the remains of a basilica dating to the time of Constantine the Great. The earliest church yet to have been discovered in Greece and erected only a few years after the official recognition of the Christian religion in the Roman Empire, it may have consecrated the actual site, ‘out of the city by a river side’, where St. Paul ‘sat down and spake unto the women which resorted thither’ and preached the Gospel of Christianity for the first time in Europe.


These and the results of many other recent excavations have given this part of the Balkans an unusually rich and rare continuity of early church art and architecture. As each church has been the subject of an archaeological report and frequently of considerable subsequent research, this book does not aim to present original discoveries. It is intended rather to be a study of the interrelationship of the individual monuments of the region and of their significance to the wider field of Byzantine and Western Christianity, then still joined in a single Communion. Nevertheless, as much of the basic material has only been published in Greek or Serbo-Croat and in archaeological journals which in some cases have long been out of print and are not easy to obtain, the descriptions, plans and illustrations of the churches which appear in Part III should have an additional value as an account of what has been achieved to date. Thus it may be an aid to students and others to whom the original documents are not all available.


Macedonia occupied a strategic position close to the heart of the Byzantine Empire. Although a European province, straddling the road linking Constantinople and the Adriatic, the situation of its chief city, Thessalonica, on the Thermaic Gulf and the conquests of Alexander the Great established for its southern and most populous part a lasting orientation towards Western Asia. At the beginning of the historic age it had been the meeting-ground of the Greek and of the Illyrian and the Thracian civilisations. By the end of the sixth century a.d. it had begun to serve a similar purpose for the cultures of Greece and of the migrating Slavs. Eventually it was where, through the influence of Christianity, these came to terms.





Thessalonica’s wealth and military importance, as well as its nearness to Constantinople, ensured that many of its leading Early Byzantine monuments reflected the art of the capital, so little of which has survived from this period. In this respect the late fourth-century Theodosian mosaics in the Rotunda of St George have an importance equivalent to those of Justinian’s era in S. Vitale at Ravenna. Nevertheless, Thessalonica’s jealousy of Constantinople, reminiscent of the internecine rivalries of the Greek city-states, remained a disruptive influence in their relationship. Macedonia, half-way between Rome and Constantinople, inevitably became an area of contention between the two, but the sympathies of Thessalonica were for a long time ranged with those centres, chiefly Rome and Alexandria, which provided the opposition to the capital. This conflict is reflected in the church art and architecture which, in the sixth century, similarly mirrored the changing ethnic pattern of the central Balkan region and the Byzantine Empire’s unsuccessful first attempt to subdue the new Slav settlers. In the ensuing ‘dark age’ only Thessalonica survived, to a great extent through its citizens’ faith in St Demetrius — the Christian successor of earlier heroes such as the Cabiri and the Thracian Horseman — to become the base from which Byzantine civilisation was to reassert itself in the ninth century.


To-day, the facilities for swift and easy travel and developments in photography and colour printing have helped us to a realisation of Byzantine aesthetic values possible to only a limited number of scholars half a century ago. Yet, although many isolated examples of Byzantine religious art can be appreciated as works of dignity and beauty, that they were essentially strictly disciplined expressions of the contemporary Byzantine liturgy is easily overlooked. In the early Byzantine era, as this liturgy had not yet attained a final, generally accepted form, its ritual still tended to be a reflection of local religious attitudes. These might vary considerably, for the Byzantine Empire had inherited from Rome a heterogeneous collection of subject peoples to whom Hellenistic influences and Roman administration had given a little more than superficial community of interests and traditions. The repressions which Christianity had undergone in the Roman Empire during its first three centuries had been an important factor in the cause of Christian unity, for a mutual loyalty and tolerance had been essential to survival. This unity survived the Edicts of Toleration, but the recognition of Christianity as the state religion introduced powerful political pressures which too often found expression in attempts by different politico-religious groups to impose their own ideas upon the rest of Christendom. Each group justified its attitude by passionately searching the Scriptures for supporting interpretations of Christian truths that, however sincerely reached, could not but be coloured by local religious traditions. In the circumstances it is hardly surprising that liturgical unity in the Byzantine Empire was achieved only after the passage of centuries and the loss of important dissenting territories. Throughout this stormy but formative period we find these local attitudes translated into the ecclesiastical art and architecture of the various provinces of the Empire. Macedonia and Southern Serbia, close to the capital and yet exceptionally open to foreign influences, possess a particularly varied range of styles, each of interest not only from aesthetic or archaeological viewpoints but also for what they originally were — fervent and often passionate attempts to create or suitably embellish the appropriate architectural form for the true worship of God.


This book was originally planned as a study of Macedonian and Serbian art in the Middle Ages. However, it soon became clear that an assessment of the vast amount of new information on the early period was an essential preliminary.





Early Byzantine Churches in Macedonia and Southern Serbia attempts this task and I must record with pleasure my debt to those scholars upon whose works I have drawn freely. Inevitably, the picture presented is uneven and far from complete. Monuments that have largely escaped destruction can be described in greater detail and discussed more accurately than those of which excavation has only revealed the foundations. Some monuments have provided material for exhaustive monographs that have added greatly to our knowledge of the period. On others we still possess scarcely any information. There must also have existed many more, of considerable importance in their time, of which we do not yet even know the sites.


Particularly in Part III, when dealing with the monuments, it has often not been easy to summarise a lengthy report in a few pages. It is almost an impertinence to try to compress in this way such works as Lemerle’s on Basilicas A and B at Philippi and Sotiriou’s on the Basilica of St Demetrius. However, I can only hope that I may be forgiven by these and other authors should I in any place have failed to summarise their conclusions accurately.


Terminology has presented a number of problems. Sometimes no word exists in English to describe correctly an Early Byzantine liturgical-architectural form, which, it must also be remembered, was in a constant state of evolution. I have used the term ‘chancel screen’, for instance, to describe the partition between the sanctuary and the public part of the church. In fourth-century Macedonia this was a low balustrade, by the seventh liturgical developments had changed it into a high partition. To distinguish the altar space from other parts of the sanctuary I have used the Greek term ‘bema’. Also I have preferred Thessalonica, which approximates to the ancient and Byzantine name for the chief city of Macedonia as well as that used by Greeks to-day, rather than Salonica, an abbreviation which was not in use until the later Middle Ages.


My indebtedness to Professor D. Talbot Rice is not easy to acknowledge. Without his interest and encouragement over the past five years, his advice over source material, his kindness in reading an early draft and offering numerous helpful suggestions and criticisms, this book would possess little of the substance and whatever value it may now have.


It is a pleasure, too, to express my gratitude to Dr. S. Pelekanides, to whom is due so much of the credit not only for important discoveries but also for the restoration and preservation of Byzantine monuments in Greek Macedonia, for many kindnesses and a great deal of assistance, particularly during my visits there. My thanks are also due to Professor G. Sotiriou for kindly allowing me to reproduce various of his line drawings and his photographs of the sculptural decoration of the Basilica of St Demetrius, and to Professor X. I. Macaronas for kindly permitting me to use photographs taken in the Archaeological Museum of Thessalonica.


In Yugoslavia, where I have received equally generous assistance and co-operation, I wish in particular to thank Professor G. Bošković for making available photographs held by the Serbian Academy of Sciences which have been published in various volumes of Starinar, Professor S. Radojčić for his photographs and drawings of the Domed Church at Konjuh and Professors G. Mano-Zisi and J. Petrović for their photographs of churches at Stobi. To Dr. Ivanka Nikolajević-Stojković and Dr. G. Stričević I owe especially warm thanks for their helpful suggestions and aid in obtaining material which had proved particularly difficult of access as well as for photographs from their own and other Yugoslav publications. My gratitude is also due to Miss Vera Mirić for her untiring help in tracing many rare Yugoslav journals and to Mr. Peča Jovanović, in whose enthusiastic company I





first explored the Byzantine churches of Yugoslav Macedonia. It is also a pleasure to pay tribute here to the kindness and hospitality I have received everywhere in Greece and Yugoslavia and the help which has been forthcoming from officials and private persons alike to enable me to see and learn all that I wished. This hospitable and friendly attitude, which is so characteristic of the Greek and Yugoslav peoples, has certainly been an immense factor in making this study such an enjoyable task.


In a field in which English is a minority language, translations have sometimes presented considerable problems. I must acknowledge with gratitude the painstaking work carried out by Miss Vera Mirić and by my wife in Serbo-Croat, by my wife in Russian and by Mr. N. Constantinides and Mr. S. Sofroniou in Greek. To Mrs. F. Stephens I am similarly grateful for typing not one but several drafts of this book. I also owe much to the facilities of such libraries as the Conway and Courtauld Libraries of the Courtauld Institute, the Joint Library of the Institute of Classical Studies and the Societies for the Promotion of Hellenic and Roman Studies, the Warburg Institute, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the London Public Libraries. It is a special pleasure to be able here to say ‘Thank you’ to the librarians and library assistants whose enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and expert knowledge have helped me so much.


Finally, I would like to record my appreciation of my publisher’s generous and helpful approach towards this book and my gratitude to my wife for what must be described as collaboration rather than assistance through all the many and varied phases of activity which it has involved.


R. F. H.

London, 1962



Note on Serbo-Croat Pronunciation


c as ts (bits)

ć as tch (witch)

č as ch (church)

j as y (yet)

dj as g (George)

š as sh (shell)


One metre equals 3.28 feet.







The author and publishers wish to thank the following individuals, journals, institutions and publishing houses for the undermentioned illustrations :


Fig. 1 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from a photograph), C. Seltman : A Book of Greek Coins : Penguin. Figs. 2, 14, A. U. Pope : Survey of Persian Art : Oxford University Press. Figs. 3, 7 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott), 53, J. Strzygowski : Asiens Bildende Kunst : Dr. Benno Filser Verlag, Augsburg. Fig. 4 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from a photograph), Archaeological Society of India : Penguin. Fig. 5, T. Talbot Rice : The Scythians : Thames and Hudson. Figs. 6, 32 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott), Arthur Evans : Mycenean Tree and Pillar Cult : Macmillan. Figs. 8, 35, 36c, F. Chapouthier : Les Dioscures au service d’une déesse : E. de Boccard, Paris. Fig. 9, H. C. Butler : Early Churches in Syria : Princeton University Press. Fig. 10, F. W. Deichmann : Frühchristliche Kirchen in Rom : Amerbach-Verlag, Basel. Fig. 11, J. Toynbee and J. Ward Perkins : The Shrine of St Peter : Longmans, Green. Fig. 12, W. Harvey : Archaeologia Ixxxvii. Fig. 13, L. H. Vincent, Revue Biblique xlv. Figs. 15, 16, J. Strzygowski and M. van Berchem (with G. L. Bell) : Amida : Carl Winters, Heidelberg. Figs. 17, 51, 52, E. Corroyer : L'Architure romane : L. Henry May, Paris. Figs. 18, 121, 122, 123, 124, 141, 147, W. Ramsay and G. L. Bell : The Thousand and One Churches : Hodder and Stoughton. Figs. 19, 20, 22, 23, 90, E. Dyggve : History of Salonitan Christianity : Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning and H. Aschehoug, Oslo. Fig. 21, T. G. Jackson : Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria : Clarendon Press. Figs. 24 (after C. A. Cummings), 25, 26 (after A. Van Millingen), 27 (after W. Salzenberg), C. Stewart : Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture : Longmans, Green. Figs. 28, 31, 38, 39, 40, 96, drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs by the author. Figs. 29, 30 (drawn from photographs),





P. Collart : Philippes, ville de Macédoine depuis ses origines jusqu à la fin de Γempire romaine : E. de Boccard, Paris. Figs. 330, 33 b, 87 (drawn from photographs of the Haughton Collection), Sotheby Catalogue, 1958. Figs. 34 (after S. Reinach), 36 a and b (after D. Tudor), 37 (after P. Perdrizet), E. Will : Le Relief cultuel gréco-romain : E. de Boccard, Paris. Fig. 41, drawn by D. Bell-Scott from a photograph by Edward J. Moore : Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Fig. 42 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), Museum Archeologiczne, Cracow. Fig. 43 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs). Figs. 44a, b, S. Pelekanides : I exo ton teichon palaiochristianiki basiliki ton Philippon, Supplement (1960) to Archaiologiki Ephimeris 1955. Fig. 46, E. Dyggve : Makedonika i. Fig. 47, C. Texier and R. P. Pullan : Byzantine Architecture : Day and Son. Fig. 48 (after W. Wilberg), 49 (after K. G. Lanckoronski and G. Niemann), D. J. Robertson : Handbook of Greek and Roman Architecture : Cambridge University Press. Fig. 50, E. Baldwin Smith : Architectural Symbolism of Imperial Rome and the Middle Ages : Princeton University Press. Figs. 54, 55, 62, 69, 89, 91, 92, 93, 152 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott), A. K. Orlandos : I xylostegos palaiochristianiki basiliki : Archaiologiki Etaireia, Athens. Fig. 56, X. I. Macaronas : Makedonika ii. Figs. 57, 71, G. A. Sotiriou : Archaiologiki Ephimeris 1929. Figs. 58 (redrawn by D. Bell-Scott), 59, 60, 61, 63 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), 64, 65, 66, 67 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), G. and M. Sotiriou : I basiliki tou agiou Dimitriou Thessalonikis : Archaiologiki Etaireia, Athens. Figs. 68, 84, 85, 86 (redrawn by D. Bell-Scott), S. Pelekanides : Palaiochristianika mnimeia Thessalonikis : Etaireias ton Filon tis Byzantinis Makedonias, Thessalonica. Fig. 70, A. Xyngopoulos : Makedonika ii. Fig. 72, M. Grbić : Umetnički Pregled viti 1939. Figs. 73, 79, 95 (from G. Vitorović), J. Petro vie : Umetnički Pregled ix 1940. Fig. 74, R. Egger : Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts 1929. Fig. 75 (drawn from photographs), I. Nikolajević-Stojković : Ranovizantiska Arhitektonska Dekorativa Plastika u Makedoniji, Srbiji i Crnoj Gori : Serbian Academy of Sciences and Naučno Delo, Belgrade. Fig. 76 (by S. Rizzello), Journal of Roman Studies xlii. Figs. 77 and 78 (redrawn by D. Bell-Scott), J. Petrović : Glasnik Hrvatskih Zemaljskih Muzeja u Sarajevu 1942. Figs. 80, 81, 82 (redrawn by D. Bell-Scott), 83 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), 97,98, 99 and 100 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), P. Lemerle : Philippes et la Macédoine orientale à Γépoque chrétienne : E. de Boccard, Paris. Fig. 88 (redrawn by D. Bell-Scott, after J. Petrović), Starinar 1933-34. Fig. 94, A. Xyngopoulos : Makedonika i. Figs. 101, 102, 106, 107, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119 (all redrawn by D. Bell-Scott), A. Deroko and S. Radojčič : Starinar 1930. Figs. 103, 104, 105, 108, 120, 125, 130, A. Deroko : Monumentalna i Dekorativna Arhitektura u Srednjevekovnoi Srbiji : Naučna Kniga, Belgrade. Figs. 109 (by N. Petrović), no (by S. Janikopani), 145 (by N. Petrović), 146 (by M. Nikolić), G. Mano-Zisi : Starinar 1952-33. Figs. 111, 132, G. Stričević : Zbornik Radova xxxvi. Figs. 126,156, G. Stričević : Akten des xi. Internationalen Byzantinisten-Kongresses, München 1958. Fig. 127, S. M. Nenadović : Starinar 1954-55· Figs. 128, 129 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from photographs), F. Mesesnel : Bulletin de l’Institut Archéologique Bulgare x. Fig. 131, after V. Petković, F. Mesesnel and A. Deroko. Fig. 133, A. C. Headlam : Ecclesiastical Sites in Isauria : Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and Macmillan. Figs. 134, 135, A. Khatchatrian : L’Architecture arménienne : Paul Guethner, Paris. Fig. 136, 137, 138, N. Spremo-Petrović : Starinar 1952-53. Figs. 139, 140 (drawn by D. Bell-Scott from a photograph), V. Petković : Starinar 1939. Figs. 142, 143, 148, G. Bošković : Arhitektura Sredneg Veka : Naučna Kniga, Belgrade. Fig. 144, G. Mano-Zisi : Starinar 1958-59· Figs. 149, 150, 151, 153, 154, 155, S. Radojčić : Zbornik Radova xxi. Fig. 157 (drawn from a photograph), D. Koćo : Jugoslavica Archaeologica ii. Figs. 158 (by V. Lahtov), 159, 160, 161 (by P. Milković-Pepek), D. Koćo : Recueil de travaux 1961 : Musée National d’Ohrid.


Pl. 3, a and f British Museum, b Warburg Institute, c Courtauld Institute, d National Museum, Athens, e Museum Antiker Kleinkunst, Munich, g Anderson. Pl. 4, a M. Rostovtzeff, b Archaelogical Institute, Serbian Academy of Sciences,





c Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, d f g and h Historical Museum, Moscow, e Ashmolean Museum, i Central Press Photos. Pl. 5, g Historical Museum, Berne. Pl. 6, a Camposanto Monumentali, Pisa, b École française d’Athènes, c Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, d British Museum. Pl. 7, a M. Rostovtzeff, b A. Protič : Mélanges Charles Diehl : Ernest Leroux, Paris, e Historical Museum, Moscow. Pl. 9, a Foto-Lykides. Pl. 14 a (from a drawing by C. Texier), C. Texier and R. P. Pullan : Byzantine Architecture : Day and Son. Pl. 18, a Pergamon Museum, Berlin, b and c from drawings by D. Roberts, d and f J. Strzygowski : Asiens Bildende Kunst : Dr. Benno Filser Verlag, Augsburg, e E. de Lorey, Syria 1931. Pl. 19, a E. Smith, b Exclusive News Agency, c Putnik, Zagreb (G. Griesbach). Pl. 22, / Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, m W. Weidlé : Mosaïques paléochrétiennes et byzantines : Electra Editrice, Milan, n Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra, Rome, 0 Giraudon, p Alinari. Pls. 23, a-d and 24, a-c, Courtauld Institute. Pls. 26, a, b and d, 27 b and c, 28, a-f G. Sotiriou. Pls. 29, a-d, 30, a-c, 31, a-c, T. Uspensky : Izvestija Russkogo Archeologicheskogo Instituta v Konstantinopolje xiv. Pl. 32, b Foto-Lykides. Pl. 36, a-e : M. Grbić : Umetnički Pregled vin 1939, f Umetnički Pregled xi 1938. Pl. 37, b and c, J. Petrović. Pls. 38, a-g, 39, a-l, 40, a-e, 52, a-e, 56, f, 58, d and e, Institute of Byzantine Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences. Pls. 41, a-c, 42, a-d, 43, a-d, 44, a and b, 59, a-c, d (drawing by M. Nikolić), 60, a and b, 61, a-c, G. Mano-Zisi, Archaeological Institute, Serbian Academy of Sciences. Pl. 43, c Jugoslavia 1932. Pl. 44, c B. Saria : Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Instituts 1933. Pl. 48, c Guides’ Mess, Hoti-Mardan, d Museum of Eastern Art, Oxford, e Christie, Manson and Woods, f Victoria and Albert Museum. Pl. 49, b and f Alinari, c and i Anderson, g B. H. Cox, h S. Bettini : La pittura bizantina ii, I mosaici : Fratelli Bocca Editori, Milan, k Institut français d’archéologie orientale, l Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra, Rome, m and o Mansell Collection (Giraudon), p C. Cecchelli : La cattedra di Massimiano : R. Istituto di Archeologia e Storia dell’ Arte and La Libreria dello Stato, Rome. Pl. 52, f-h J. Petrović. Pls. 56, a-e, 57, a-e F. Mesesnel, Archaeological Institute, Serbian Academy of Sciences. Pl. 58, a-c V. Petkovic : Starinar 1937. Pls. 62, a and b, 63, a-d, f and g, 64, a and b S. Radojčić, Institute of Byzantine Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences.


Photographs other than those listed above have been taken by R. F. and B. Hoddinott.



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