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Culture Archaeology Monuments Churches Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Rodopi Municipality of Maronia

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28/11/2007
Synaxis

Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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A large Early Christian–Justinian basilica was uncovered at the foothills of Aghios Georgios, near Maroneia, on the coastal site of Synaxis. Apart from this three-aisled basilica with a transverse aisle, the archaeological survey revealed a chapel with a mosaic floor, a vaulted tomb and a monastery complex dating from the 9th century AD.
The eastern triconch-shaped side of the Early Christian basilica is constructed with curved marble coming from an earlier building complex of the time of the Antonines (AD 96 – 192). In this complex, a hero shrine, or avaton heroon, possibly dedicated to Maron appears to have been established under Hadrian (117 – 138). Geographer Strabo wrote that the Maron shrine was located near the city of Ismara, and according to Homer, it was inhabited by the Ciconians. D. Triandaphyllos identified the remains of the ancient city found on the top and on the south slope of Mount Aghios Georgios, just over the site of Synaxis, with the remains of the city of Ismara. According to the sources, Hadrian (117 -138) visited the Thracian cities and probably built a shrine dedicated to Maron at the site of Synaxis, thereby shifting cult activity from the inaccessible acropolis of the Ismara mountaintop (Aghios Georgios). In the fifth century AD, this shrine was replaced by a splendid three-aisled basilica with a transverse aisle that was uncovered in the area.
In the ninth and tenth centuries, building material taken exclusively from the ruined basilica served for the construction of a monastery with two wings on the site of the earlier basilica. One wing occupied the north aisle of the Early Christian basilica, while the other the southern. The court in between occupied the central aisle of the basilica. The walls of the basilica were destined to become the precinct wall of the monastery that has been preserved in the course of many centuries to a notable height.
The monastery’s Katholikon is built on the eastern part of the courtyard and it is a single-aisled church with a narthex and an open exonarthex. The monastery’s priors were buried in a built tomb found in the narthex. The church’s marble screen, or templon, was found cut in two pieces in order to be set on sale in the marble trade, after the monastery was deserted in the mid- 13th century. Two closure panels of the screen were found on the floor of the sanctuary. One of them bears a rhomb decoration that is inscribed in a fourfold square frame as well as decorations of rosettes and a double cross.
The existence of monastic life in Synaxis is probably related to the revival and the reorganization of the cities and the villages during the 9th and 10th centuries. The most ancient glazed pottery found at Synaxis date to this period. Apparently, the monks abandoned the monastery during the 13th century in search of a probably safer urban centre like the neighbouring city of Maroneia.
The triconch sanctuary of the basilica was restored at Synaxis and the mosaic of the NW chapel was detached and also restored.
The fact that Synaxis was located exactly opposite Samothrace explains why a building complex with many rooms existed at the coast. This building was probably a guesthouse for pilgrims travelling to Samothrace and to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods.