BASILICA DEL ANFITEATRO DE TARRAGONA
To Christiane Maquet Dujardin who has provided us with all the photos of the basilica that appear in this file and has allowed us to include them on our website.
- Discovered in 1953 under the remains of a 12th century Romanesque church.
- Located within the amphitheater of Tarragona in a minority of three marires burned alive in the year259.
- Excavated and investigated in several campaigns, its plant and many characteristics of its design and decoration are known.
Inside the Roman amphitheater of Tarragona, on January 21, 259 were burned alive Fructuoso, bishop of Tarraco and his deacons Augurio and Eulogio, so the amphitheater was considered by the Christian community since the late Roman era as a holy place where possibly a martyrial monument was built in the late S. IV or early V on which after the conversion of Recaredo was built this basilica in honor of the three saints.
This is a very positive historical period for the Visigoth Kingdom both politically and economically, in which after Leovigildo extended his rule to most of the peninsula, of the religious unification that meant the conversion of Recaredo and the social and political importance that the Catholic Church acquired, there was an important transformation of the main cities, very significant in Tarragona, at a time of great change in the city in which the Visigoth cathedral, this amphitheatre basilica and other ecclesial buildings on the Acropolis were built, at a time when the Roman basilical tradition that we find in other Visigoth constructions of the sixth century, such as the basilicas of Eio (Albacete), Cabeza de Griego (Cuenca) or Santa María de los Arcos (La Rioja) among others.
On this basilica, which is only conserved at the foundation level and was not discovered until 1953, a Romanesque church with a Latin cross plan was built in the 12th century, after the Christian reconquest. However, the various excavation campaigns have allowed us to know their main characteristics.
The basilica, located in the north-western quadrant of the arena of the amphitheatre, is of basilical plan of three naves, of greater width the central to the sides, with an apse whose foundation plan has a semi-circular shape somewhat prolonged horseshoe, while possibly its exterior was polygonal in shape; the only door found is towards the center of the north side. At the eastern end of this side had a rectangular chamber with access to the interior of the temple dedicated to sacristy, baptistery and even there was a tomb, possibly at different times.
Analyzing the foundation, which is the only thing found under the remains of the Romanesque church, we know that the basilica was 26.08m long and 12.44 wide (88 x 42 ft) with walls 59 cm thick (2 ft), while the horseshoe of the apse in its foundation was 4.74m deep and 6.82 wide and the side chamber 5.83 by 3.85. The naves, 5.33m wide the central one and 3.55 the lateral ones (18 x 12 feet), were separated by arches of seven arches, which we assume of half point on columns with capitals, those of the ends attached to the wall.
Remains of the floor of the central nave, of the apse, have been found at a higher height than the nave, and at an intermediate height that of a choir located in the first section of the central nave, with slots for foundations of cancels that separated the choir from the apse and the central nave. In the center of the floor of this choir, where the horizontal axis of the church intersects with the transverse of the choir, there is a hole that seems to indicate that there existed some element that indicated the exact point of martyrdom, which would justify the strange situation of the basilica within the amphitheater.
On the whole, the plan of the basilica suggests a very careful design, similar to that of the basilica of EIO in the Tolmo de Minateda, although of a somewhat smaller size. Using the foot as a unit, the measurements of the basilica’s floor plan are based on the number six and its multiples and according to their researchers it would be the same with its vertical structure. The six was considered by Saint Augustine and Saint Isidore as the perfect number.
Another theme to bear in mind when valuing the basilica is that, although in its construction recycled material from previous monuments of its environment has been used, it was not a direct reuse, but that they were rerouted for this work and sculpted in them cancels, columns, capitals, bases… , in the purest Visigoth style.
The basilica of the Amphitheater of Tarragona was built at the end of the sixth century in memory of the three Tarragona martyrs at a time of great strength in Visigoth Hispania and of greater influence of the Church. From a complex and well-crafted design, centered by the exact point where they died, was a building in which, still remains the late-Roman basilical structure of three naves and a single apse, perhaps the later of this type of Visigoth churches, For it the material of other previous constructions was reused, but retallando the decoration according to what we know of Visigoth constructions of that period in other cities like Mérida or Toledo.