It is not clear when the entrance area (the Propylaea) of the ancient sanctuary of Zeus at Labraunda lost its symbolic rôle as a passage between the sanctity of the ‘pagan’ temenos precinct and the outside, profane world beyond. It is clear, however, that from around AD 400 the area had come into the hands of the monotheistic institution of the Christian Church. Parts of the former pagan hieron had consequently been pacified, which may have been a controversial act at the time.

   The locations of the Early Christian churches at Labraunda follow a pattern known from various sanctuaries around the ancient Mediterranean world. The area chosen for the construction of the East Church can, for example, be compared to the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros in the Peloponnese; here, the earliest Christian activity is not recorded at the centre of the ancient temenos area, but rather towards the outskirts, close to the Propylaea.

East Church complex from the north

(J. Blid)

East Church complex, plan

of the water system (J. Blid)

A similar phenomenon can also be found, for example, at the sanctuaries of Eleusis in Attica and Lagina in Karia. The Christian presence did not become a humble gesture of recognition at Labraunda; on the contrary, we see a clear religious manifestation, which was the result of a sizeable economic investment and the establishment of a renewed sacred topography.

     Not only did the East Church constitute a singular architectural unit, but it was also part of a larger building complex, which included a rebuilt Graeco-Roman nymphaeum (the Doric House) and an Early Imperial bath house (the East Bath). Both of these buildings underwent considerable refurbishment and were given new mosaic floors.

East Church complex, general plan (J. Blid)

A quantitative analysis of the archaeological data, which was found between 1949 and 2011 in excavations and surveys, points towards a construction date for the East Church close to AD 400, i.e. contemporaneous with the West Church. It is also evident that there was busy activity in the area at least up until the early seventh century.

     The Late Antique Church seems to have fallen into ruin during the Early Middle Ages, perhaps due to an earthquake. The appearance of the excavated destruction layer east of the apse indicates that the eastern wall collapsed outwards on one single occasion. Similarly to the West Church, the East Church was, in time, replaced by a smaller Byzantine Chapel, which has not been dated by reliable archaeological evidence. Coins from the area, however, attest to activity during the 10th to the 11th centuries, which may tentatively be applied to date the Chapel. There does not seem to be any traces of material culture that can be securely dated to the Late Byzantine or Ottoman periods, perhaps with the exception of the so-called ‘Beehive’ Tower, which stands on top of the Roman East Bath.

East Church complex,

a reconstruction (J. Blid)