Paleochristian Basilica of St Nikitas | Locations

Paleochristian Basilica of St Nikitas

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About 300 m northeast of the fortress of Frangokastello, is situated the small one-room church of St Nikitas. It is built on the ruins of an old christian basilica, the walls of which and its mosaic floor are preserved around the church.
The basilica dates back to the second half of the 6th century, when the south coast of the island was prosperous. During the excavation of the basilica it was found that its walls are preserved to a conderable height over the surface, which means that the church was abandoned and gradually declined in the middle of the 7th century, when the Arab raids began.

Architectural elements of the basilica were used for the building of th fortress. The basilica of St Nikitas has three aisles, totally 26 m in length. In the east it ends in a semi-circular apse and in the south in a narthex. The eastern part of the southern aisle has not been excavated, while a large part of it has been destroyed. The holy bema occupies the eastern part of the middle aisle.

It was connected with small rectangular pastophoriums from which only the northern one is preserved. The middle aisle is defined by very low built pillars, which stop about 3,50 m from the western wall of the church. This leads to the conclusion that some kind if internal narthex existed there. The follor of th basilica was covered by mosaic, which is preserved in very good condition in its most part. Only in the eastern part of the southern aisle and in the bema has it been destroyed.

On the floor geometric decorations prevail but also scenes with animals, like the representation of a billy-goat among branches in the southern aisle. The patterns of the basilica’s floor compose an interesting set that differentiates itself from the mosaics of Crete but follows the provincial style of the middle of the 6th century. In the bema of the basilica is built the single-room church of St Nikitas.

For its construction architectural elements from the basilica have been used, like the two marble pillar that haven been walled up in the middle of the side walls. The initial mosaic was used as the floor of the church. The church had wall paintings, which today is in its large part covered or completely destroyed. One can however distinguish traces of the Assumption of the Mother of God on the northern wall and of the Ascension of Christ at the arch of the Bema. It is concluded from the icons the wall paintings that the church dates from the second half of the 13th century.