Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the Historic Centre of Poreč
Episcopal Complex Of The Euphrasian Basilica In The Historic Centre Of Poreč
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Cultural Croatia Europe And North America County Of Istria

The Euphrasian Basilica in Porečis the most integrally preserved early Christian cathedral complex in the region and unique by virtue of the fact that all the basic components - church, memorial chapel, atrium, baptistry and episcopal palace - are preserved. The Basilica, including its earlier phases (oratory, basilica gemina and basilica proper), is a characteristic example of 5th- and 6th-century religious architecture, showing significant Byzantine influence

Churches were established in Poreč(the Municipium Parentium of the Roman province of Histria) between the early 4th and mid-6th centuries. No fewer than four churches were built in succession on the north coast of the low peninsula where the town was situated;only the latest of these, the Basilica of Euphrasius, has survived. The Euphrasian Basilica in Porečis the most integrally preserved early Christian cathedral complex and unique by virtue of the fact that all the basic components - church, memorial chapel, atrium, baptistry and episcopal palace - are preserved. The earliest phase, a simple oratory within a large Roman private house in which the bones of the local martyr, Maurus, were placed, is dated to around 313. This was restored and enlarged with the addition of a second hall (basilicae geminae ) later in the 4th century, but remained a simple structure with a rectangular plan. In the 5th century a new church was built on the site. It took the characteristic form for Istria and Noricum. The present church was built in the mid-6th century to the orders of the bishop whose name it retains, Euphrasius.

The basilica built by Euphrasius in the 6th century is three-aisled, with a large central apse flanked by two shallower side apses. The walls on the northern, western and southern sides are those of the earlier basilica on the site, and the bases of the two rows of nine columns that divide up the interior are also from that structure. The plain columns are surmounted by capitals with different forms of carved ornamentation (the Byzantine version of Corinthian capitals: inverted basket capitals;fretted capitals with animal and vegetable motifs above), but identical in opposite pairs. They are linked by arcading with stucco ornamentation, which survives intact on the north side, where traces of the original polychrome paint are still discernible. The 15th-century frescoes are also still visible on the western wall and in the lunette over the southern apse. The lower part of the wall is decorated with coloured stone and mother-of-pearl. Above there is a stucco band, below the mosaics, which occupy the spaces around the four windows, the interior of the semi-dome and the front wall. The central feature inside the dome is a representation of the Virgin Mary, holding the Christ Child and flanked by angels, local martyrs and Bishop Euphrasius. Only a small portion of the original floor mosaics survive, in the south apse. The exteriors of the walls are plastered and divided by pilaster strips, connected by blind arcades. The whole of the top section of the west front of the building, above the cloistered narthex, was originally covered with mosaics, but much of this decoration has disappeared.

In addition to his new basilica, Euphrasius erected a complex of associated buildings - an atrium beyond the narrow narthex of the basilica, a baptistry at the end of the atrium, a monumental episcopal palace between the atrium and the sea, and a small memorial chapel to the north-east of the basilica. All these buildings were richly ornamented with mosaics, alabaster, marble, mother-of-pearl and stucco, in the lavish tradition of the Byzantine 'Golden Age' during the reign of Justinian. Later additions to the complex were the Kanonika (Canon's House) of 1257, the 16th-century bell tower, and some minor buildings such as the sacristy (15th century) and two chapels (17th and 19th centuries respectively).

The Episcopal Complex is an integral part of the historic centre of Poreč, which has preserved its Roman street pattern to a considerable extent.

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