Bizans Ankara'sı ve Kaybolan Bir Kültür Mirası: 'St. Clement' Kilisesi




The Church of ‘St. Clement’: A Lost Cultural Heritage of Byzantine Ankara



This paper, which is part of ongoing comprehensive research into Late Antique and Byzantine Ankara, intends to re-investigate the so-called church of St. Clement, in terms of topography, architecture, and art history, within the historical context of Byzantine Ankara. It also aims to discuss and interpret aspects of this building, which often remained aside from the usual typological and chronological considerations, and thus attempts to restore the history of this church, with possible building phases, in the light of archaeological and textual evidence from the fourth through to the ninth centuries.



Little can be seen of this building, which was almost completely lost before the 1960s. The remains of St. Clement’s are hidden and not easily accessible behind the buildings at the corner of Denizciler Caddesi and Çıkrıkçılar Yokuşu in the historic district of Ulus. Only the inner section of a wall, including a marble block, with an incised Latin cross with triangular termini (horizontal arms being eroded), survives. The church of St. Clement, built of alternating rows of rubble stone and brick (pilasters supporting the dome and arches are completely of brick), had a cross-inscribed (cross-in-square) plan, terminating in an apse semi-circular on the interior and polygonal on the exterior, with a central dome, including a narthex, galleries, and a crypt.



The date of St. Clement’s has long been debated, although no comprehensive research focused on this building after the first half of the last century. Scholars have proposed different dates, oscillating from the late fifth/early sixth to the middle of the ninth century, on the basis of typological and stylistic considerations. The layout of St. Clement’s shares similarities to a group of medieval churches, including the variations of the cross-domed plan, such as the Koimesis church in Nicaea/Iznik, the church of St. Nicholas at Myra/Demre, and the Hagia Sophia at Bizye/Vize, to cite only a few examples. In terms of construction technique and materials, St. Clements’s, built of bands of brick and rubble, finds close parallels in the masonry of the Dereağzı church in Lycia, as well in the superstructure of the inner circuit of the Ankara citadel, also built of alternating rows of rubble stone and brick and attributed to the year 859.



The interpretation of archaeological and literary evidence and analysis of the architectural characteristics and construction technique and materials strongly indicate a date around the middle of the ninth century for the construction of St. Clement’s. On the other hand, the cross-domed church of St. Clement might well have been built on the site of an earlier Christian place (or places) of worship. Indeed, St. Clement’s, located at the southwest foot of the citadel hill, is supposed to have been erected at a place called ‘Cryptus’, where St. Clement received martyrdom under Diocletian (284-305) and was buried together with one of his deacons. According to Vita S. Clementis Ancyrani, an earlier Christian place of worship was erected in the area where the later church of St. Clement stood.



Furthermore, St. Clement’s included a number of marble architectural elements, attributable to the fifth and sixth centuries, which constitute a terminus post quem for the construction of the church. It is therefore very probable that the marble architectural elements of St. Clement’s, which show a significant contrast in terms of decoration and workmanship to the rubble and brick masonry of the walls, had been removed from an earlier Christian place of worship (in all probability that at Cryptus) to be reused in the ninth-century church, as well as in the citadel walls and other locations in Ankara.


Key Words: Byzantine, Ankara, S. Clementis Ancyrani, Cryptus, cross-in-square

Anahtar kelimeler: Bizans, Ankara, S. Clementis Ancyrani, Cryptus, ‘kapalı haç’ plan


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