Back to menu

Roman Archaeological Remains in Limenas Chersonisou, Crete - Basilica of Agios Nikolaos

About 1.5 km. to the south-east of Limenas Chersonisou is a small promontory, on top of which a small church of Saint Nicholas (D) was built in the 17th or 18th century. The church was built amongst the remains of an early-Christian basilica, that in turn was built on top of a Roman temple.

Plan of the church. From Sythiakaki 1993.

The basilica consists of an atrium (A), narthex (B), three naves (C), and an apse behind the central nave and the church of Saint Nicholas. In the entrances of the naves are marble thresholds, between the naves are marble columns. The floors of the narthex and the central nave were decorated with polychrome mosaics with geometric motifs and in the narthex also a lion and a deer. At one end of the narthex is a tomb, covered by a marble slab. The building, excluding the apse, measures 18.90 x 50.20 m.

Behind the apse are the remains of a separate structure, today largely submerged. This may have been a baptisterium. A rectangular room (E) was set against the atrium. In the room is a round wall, that has been interpreted as the lower part of a tiny lighthouse or beacon, or of a minaret, indicating that the building had been used as a mosque. On the other hand, towers belonging to basilicae are found in Syria, so perhaps the presumed tower belonged to the basilica.

General view of the buildings.

General view of the buildings.

The apse behind the church of Saint Nicholas.

The submerged structure behind the apse, perhaps a baptisterium.

The marble threshold between the left nave and the narthex, looking towards the narthex.
Note the two pivot holes and a small square hole in the middle, for bolting two doors.

Detail of the floor of the narthex. To the left is a tomb

The mosaic floor of the narthex.

The mosaic floor of the central nave.

The round wall (a tower?) next to the church.

[jthb - 28-Dec-2007]