Small Basilica

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Doves from the baptisterium, a detailDoves from the baptisterium, a detail

Soon afterwards, the basilica burnt to the ground. It is not clear when or why disaster struck. It could be the result of a Barbarian attack. The fire destroyed a lot. The wooden roof and the tiles collapsed and filled the inside of the church with rubble.

People, however, were eager to have the church back. The Small Basilica rose again, with the new foundations built over old ones. The mosaics inside the church were never restored. They were left there, covered with a new floor made of unimpressive bricks.

The renewed Small Basilica had another thing to awe visitors, its baptisterium.

Attached to its northeast corner, the small rooms was very important. At the time, Christian faith was obligatory for the empire's citizens and more and more people abandoned their old beliefs. The baptisterium of the Small Basilica was designed to be the place for baptisms not only of the newborn but also of adults. It had two entrances - one for non-Christians and one for Christians - and a cross-shaped marble pool, about a meter deep. Marble columns held an elaborate roof, and the floor outside the pool was adorned with one of the finest mosaics in this part of the empire - a couple of doves and a stag. The doves symbolized the Holy Spirit wile the deer embodied the soul striving for God.

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