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S U M M A R Y

The Trionch Structures of Cilicia and Isauria
Ayşe AYDIN*

There are three existing structures with a triconch layout in Cilicia and Isauria. They are, firstly, the structure at Antiocheia ad Cragum, situated in the Nohutyeri quarter of Güney village, in the Gazipaşa Township of Antalya Province. Secondly, the structure situated on Mahras Mount in the Township of Mut in Mersin Province and, thirdly, the structure to be seen at the Süphandere settlement in the Township of Feke in Adana Province (in Plain Cilicia).

The triconch structure at Antiocheia ad Cragum is situated to the north of the point where the Roman colonnaded street turns towards the Agora. It is built from roughly worked slate stone and brick pieces. This building presents us with a unity of the square and triconch layouts. In the foundations of the southwest and southeast corners, which are still visible, are spolien, consisting of inscribed marble postaments which had been taken from the Roman colonnaded street. While the southern conch is in ruins, the northern and eastern ones are in a good state of preservation. However, the northern conch and the northeast corner are not easily discernible due to the growth of a dense undergrowth.

The triconch structure on the Mahras Mount was built as a part of a monastery complex that also included a large church and a cistern. Located to the east of the large church, this structure has a triconch layout inscribed within a square. The southern side of the structure was hewn out from the rock. The conches of the interior were built from limestone blocks employing no mortar, while the walls of the square outer body of the building were built from large blocks of limestone. This building has two doorways: one to the west, with the lintel of this western doorway bearing a Maltese cross motif carved in a roundel, and the other doorway is situated close to the northern end of the eastern wall.

The triconch structure at Süphandere has a nave-like hall extending in an east-west direction on its west side. Slate was employed on the inside walls, while it was used together with limestone for the construction of the outer walls. The arches and the superstructure of the conches are made of limestone. The access to the interior is through a pointed arched doorway in the southern wall of the western nave-like hall. The locals describe this building as a "ziyaret", i.e. a place to be visited. There is a tomb in the southwest corner of this hall. The triconch section has, in part, survived, with its northern conch in a better state of preservation. Of a similar size, the southern and eastern conches were rebuilt using original materials, on the lines of the foundations. The northern conch also houses a tomb.

When the triconch structures in Cilicia and Isauria are evaluated as a whole, it can be observed that these structures are built from locally available slate and limestone. Notwithstanding the lack of clear evidence, but based on comparisons with parallel structures elsewhere, it can be said that these conches were roofed with semi-domes and that the central part was covered by a dome, while the preceding hall of the structure at Mahras Mount and the nave of that at Süphandere, were covered by a vault. The lack of in situ liturgical and architectural elements prevents us from clearly determining the function(s) of these structures.

The triconch structures dating from the Roman Period in other regions have been identified as having a variety of functions: as the dining or garden halls of villas, as the caldarium or frigidarium in baths, in nymphaions, or as mausolea in Roman funerary architecture. This functional variety of triconch structures continued, well into the Byzantine period, as it was employed in the architecture of: baptisteries, churches or martyria, employed as monumental tombs for the saints and martyrs of the new religion.

The structure at Süphandere suggests that it was originally built to serve the function of a mausoleum. Although not certain, it is possible to suggest that the other two structures studied here also had a funerary function. No clear evidence is available to indicate a date for these structures. Regional and local histories, together with parallel examples in other regions, suggest a date in the second half of the 5th century or the beginning of the 6th century A.D. for the structures at Antiocheia ad Cragum and on the Mahras Mount, while that at Süphandere should be dated to the period of the 12th - 14th centuries. In regard to the materials employed, the plan layout and function, these three triconch structures have a special place amongst the centrally planned structures of Isauria and Cilicia.


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

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