Double Naved Churches of Medieval Lebanon: An Explanation of the Problem, the Evidence and the Theories

Angela Anderson


Extant religious architecture and its archaeologicalremains are repositories of information about cultural andreligious practice, but design 'anomalies' present questionsabout intercultural and interreligious interaction, regionaltraditions and visual culture. A series of churches exist in themountains and valleys of the Lebanon, with a configuration ofnot one but two naves, side-by-side, divided by piers, columns or arches, but never a fully formed wall between the distinct yet adjacent liturgical spaces. The majority of these double naved churches are dated to the crusader period of the 12th and 13th centuries, but the reason for their existence isunclear.
Rockcut and stone built, many of these churches survived centuries of regional upheaval due to their locationand diminutive size, in comparison to larger churches inurban centres which are no longer extant. Archaeologists, artand architectural historians have suggested that thisseemingly regional floor plan derives from linguistic andliturgical dichotomies in practice in local Christiancommunities. Fragments of frescoes and wall paintingssimultaneously suggest answers and add complexity to thequestions of intended use. This paper explores the question of these churches, the extant evidence and the theories regarding their use.

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