Town and Church in Late Antiquity. Architectural and Urbanistic Dimensions

  • Ventzislav Dintchev Department of Classical Archaeology National Archaeological Institute with Museum Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 2 Saborna Str. BG-1000 Sofia
Keywords: Late Antiquity, cities, public buildings, Christian buildings, bishops


In the 4th c. AD the number of Christian religious buildings in the old cities of the dioceses Thracia and Dacia is small, and their appearance rather humble. The first Christian buildings were usually erected in the necropoleis and the suburbs. When inside the cities, they are situated outside the central squares, dominated by the still functioning public buildings, symbols of the towns’ autonomy of the previous centuries.

In the old centers the abandonment of the buildings related to polis autonomy happens in the end of 4th c. – first half of the 5th c. AD. Similar is the final date of the earlier structure-defining units in the large military camps of the Principate which are in the process of transformation into civic centers in the 4th c. AD. Significant is the fact that the first large bishop churches appear simultaneously with the decline of the old architecture linked to the old polis or military organization.

Despite the negative tendencies in urban life around and after the mid-5th c. AD, the construction of Christian religious buildings is impressive. In the end of the 5th – 6th c. AD. Christian churches heavily dominate in the urban structures.