Episcopal church at Polystylon
© Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace
Location: It is located on the hilltop.
The Monument: It dates back to the 9th-10th centuries; there are signs of repair works carried out at a later period during the 11th-12th centuries. The church was probably erected on the foundations of a prior, three-aisled basilica of the Early Christian times that ended to three niches to the east.
It is a three-aisled basilica with a transverse aisle and a narthex with columns joined by big arches.
During the first phase the main nave was divided by colonnades in three aisles. During the second phase, the columns were replaced by walls. The central aisle ends to a niche to the east having three sides on its exterior, while the niches of the north and south aisles are incorporated on the east wall. The fragments of wall paintings that were found in the central aisle indicate the existence of religious icons in the church.
The entrance of the narthex lies in the middle of the west side, and it communicates with the nave through three entrances. The floor is destroyed except from a few remaining parts on the north side. According to the excavator, the construction on the northeast side of the narthex formed the base of a staircase leading to the gallery of the church.
There is an octagonal baptistery on the northeast part of the building that was probably part of an earlier basilica. The baptistery has an interesting, cross-shaped, built baptismal font situated at the east wall, in order to facilitate, according to the excavators’ opinion, the movement of the faithful in the interior of the building. On the west side and on the north aisle, there are apertures indicating that the baptistery was used in previous times as a chapel or ancillary building of the church.
Excavation works carried out in the area of the church revealed several tombs. Especially the one found at the north outer side of the church is of great interest. It is a sarcophagus that must have been an object of pilgrimage honouring an unknown local saint. The prominent position of the tomb and the construction of a proskynetarion (icon-stand oratory) over the tomb cover, where probably laid the saint’s icon, are elements supporting this assumption. The built arcosolium tomb next to the baptistery is also interesting. Deep in the arcosolium, there is a painted cross-bearing rosette imitating ceramic decoration dating to the 11th century.
Several coins, pottery and architectural members were found at the site of the basilica during the excavation works.
According to Ch. Bakirtzis, the basilica, the baptistery as well as the other monuments indicate that Polystylon was a vivid town during this period, though not so illustrious as the neighbouring city of Philippi.
Βιβλιογραφία: Π. Α. ΓΕΩΡΓΑΝΤΖΗΣ, Η Μητρόπολις Τραϊανουπόλεως και αι επισκοπαί αυτής. Συμβολή εις την εκκλησιαστικήν ιστορίαν της Θράκης, Ξάνθη 1981• Ν. ΖΗΚΟΣ, Νομός Ξάνθης, Πολύστυλον (Άβδηρα), Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 39 (1984) Β2 Χρονικά• Χ. ΜΠΑΚΙΡΤΖΗΣ – Ν. ΖΗΚΟΣ, Ανασκαφή Πολυστύλου Αβδήρων, Πρακτικά Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας (1984), Α΄• Χ. ΜΠΑΚΙΡΤΖΗΣ – Ν. ΖΗΚΟΣ, Νομός Ξάνθης, Πολύστυλον Αβδήρων, Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 41 (1986) Χρονικά 189-190• Χ. ΜΠΑΚΙΡΤΖΗΣ - Δ. ΤΡΙΑΝΤΑΦΥΛΛΟΣ, Θράκη, (Πολιτιστικοί Οδηγοί), Αθήνα 1988• Χ. ΜΠΑΚΙΡΤΖΗΣ, Βυζαντινή Θράκη, 330-1453, Θράκη, Αθήνα 1994• Ν. ΚΑΛΛΙΝΤΖΗ - Δ. ΤΕΡΖΟΠΟΥΛΟΥ - Ν. ΖΗΚΟΣ - Σ. ΔΑΔΑΚΗ, Άβδηρα - Πολύστυλον (Αρχαιολογικός Οδηγός), Ξάνθη 1998• Σ. ΔΑΔΑΚΗ, Νομός Ξάνθης, Πολύστυλον (Άβδηρα), Αρχαιολογικόν Δελτίον 46 (1991) Β2 Χρονικά• Γ. ΧΡ. ΤΣΙΓΑΡΑΣ, Επισκοπικός ναός στο Πολύστυλο, στο: Θρησκευτικά Μνημεία στο Νομό Ξάνθης, επιμέλεια: Γεώργιος Χρ. Τσιγάρας, Ξάνθη 2005.