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The Church of St. Paul in Tarsus

Eski Camii is situated at Tarsus, northeast of Makam Camii. lt was originally a church, which later on was transformed into a mosque. Now its floor is circa 1.20 metre below the surrounding area of the city centre.

The building is representative of the type of basilica. In the middle of the western, southern and northern walls there is one door each having pointed arches with astragals. When the church was transformed into a mosque, the west door was walled up. The church consists of a nave and two aisles separated by three roundpillars each. Their capitals are decorated by simple stalactite work (muqarnas), which shows the influence of Islamic architecture. The nave is divided into four pointed barrel vaults and so the aisles are divided into six vaulting bays. A simple moulding separates the walls from the pointed barrel vault. The building, as a whole, is covered by a saddle roof. In the middle of the eastern end there is an apse flanked by two ancillary rooms. The apex of the apse has three slit windows, and in the lateral walls there are semicircular recesses. The ancillary rooms have semicircular apses and slit windows, too, and their doors are open to the aisles. Above both doors, ashlars are bearing inscriptions. In the inscription of the southern door king Oshin (1308 - 1320) is mentioned as the founder of the church dedicated to St. Paul. Thus the church may be built in the first half of the fourteenth century.

Other examples of the type of the Eski Cami are St. George and Theodore at Anazarbus (1111), the church of Constable Sembad at Peperon (now Candyr Kalesi, 1251) and the church at Frenk (10th - 13th centuries). All these churches have several features in common: the type of basilica and the apse flanked by two adjacent rooms, which are to be found already in Cilicia at early Christian times; the circular moulding of the doors is significant to the influence of the architecture of the Great Armenian Kingdom; the simple muqarnas (stalactite work) of the impost capitals, the corbels, and of the capitals of the columns is rather characteristical of Islamic ornamentation. It was introduced into the Great Armenian architecture and into the Turco-Islamic architecture as well.

One can say, that Eski Cami (St. Paul's Church), together with the other churches mentioned, forms a particular group of Armeno-Cilician church architecture.

*Yard. Doç. Dr. Ayşe Aydın, Mersin Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Arkeoloji Bölümü, 33342 Çiftlikköy Kampüsü, Mersin.

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