Üçayak Byzantine Church | architecture


The construction of the church, solely using bricks as the medium, is very unusual in Byzantine architecture. The church foundation was made of stone. In 1900, John Winter Crowfoot reports a pinkish external layer covering the brick walls. In-between the walls, base material, consisting of rubble, stones and other fillers, was used. The filler material was supported by a wooden-beam structure.[1]

Double naves, apses and domes

Üçayak Church in the background

The church design is very unusual for Byzantine architecture. The church is constructed as a double-church featuring two naves adjacent to each other and separated by a wall. The naves were quadrangular and each featured a separate dome.[1] The naves have a common narthex of an oblong shape.[2] The twin church design at Üçayak has two naves (naoi) each with a separate semi-circular apse. Each apse includes a rectangular bay in front of it.[1][2]

The double-church design is even more unusual because the two churches were constructed at the same time, as opposed to being built sequentially, which was the construction method employed more often for churches of this type. Scholars speculate that the double church was constructed either in honour of two distinct saints or martyrs, or because a Byzantine emperor and his wife built it; the latter explanation being more probable, since no crypts or other artefacts, attesting to the worship of saints or martyrs, have been found.[1]


The exterior walls are decorated by arches that recess into the walls forming niches. The same technique had been used for the church of Çanlıkilisse in Cappadocia and the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God in Nicaea (modern-day Iznik). The recessed arches and the all-brick wall construction of the Üçayak church provided an impressive architectural element to its design.[1]


In 1900, John Winter Crowfoot reports faint traces of a fresco decorating a pendentive. Even at that time, it was difficult to discern any details of the theme of the fresco other than what appeared to be a series of heads with haloes.[1] Crowfoot also reports that there were traces of two illegible inscriptions when he visited the site in 1900. The inscription may have contained clues as to the reason for building the church at such a completely isolated area.[1]

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