BASILICA PALEOCRISTIANA DE AMPURIAS
It is the oldest of the churches in the municipality of Sant Martí d’Empúries. It is known by the name of “Paleochristian Basilica”, located in the “new city” (Neapolis), from the IV-VII centuries AD. This small temple was built using elements from some old baths, dating back to the time of Augustus; in the Visigothic period it was slightly reformed. Despite that and its current dilapidated state, it is a very interesting sample of the local paleochristian religious architecture.
The apse, with a deepened semicircular plan, and the pavement, made of marble fragments, are well visible. Initially, this Christian monument was 12 meters long by 5 meters wide. Two apartments flank the <apse, the two pastoforis or sacristies, very reduced, located on each side, the prothesis (prothesis) to the north and the diaconion (diaconium) to the south. A tripartite rectangular nave was later added to the east and a vestibule; These extensions extended the length of the building by up to 18 meters. There was a large narthex at the foot of the nave and a side entrance hall (protyron). This ship had two doors, one on the south side and the other, very narrow, facing north.
This church was the center of an extensive cemetery (cella memoriae). There are tombs inside the temple, and the portico also served as a burial chamber. Outside, the necropolis extends widely around occupying, especially towards the north, a considerable space of the old urban center of the neapolis. The tombs are inside sepulchral chambers, some built ad hoc in the early Christian and Visigothic times, while others used the walls of the old buildings in the place. Certainly also present, and especially numerous, are large sarcophagi carved in sandstone, rectangular in shape and smooth, with lids or monolithic cover pieces with two slopes and provided with acroteria.
In this early Christian and Visigothic chapel, located in the Neápolis d’Empúries, an altar (mensa altaris) measuring 100 x 76 cm was discovered. It is a rectangular piece of Parian marble that had contained a large relief. The sculpted surface on the obverse having been lowered, and thus eliminating the figures it showed, the reverse was worked to endow it, all around it, with a double projection, smooth and half-round, with a fine moulding. A local stone statue base (cippus) also appeared in the presbytery of the building, containing a commemorative inscription of the birth of Legio VII Gemina. That this support served as an altar base for the altar that we have described is almost certain. The titular saint of the building, if there was one, is unknown.
The altar in the church of Sant Martí d’Empúries is of the same typology as the one described, practically identical.