History of Byzantine Church
Paestum was Christianized by the 5th century AD, and even became the seat of a bishop. The Temple of Ceres/Athena was transformed into a church and this purpose-built basilica was added nearby in the early 5th century. Stones and columns from the ancient city were used in the building, which was originally open to the elements like the ancient temples nearby. Around the end of the 5th century, the church became a "closed basilica" with the addition of outer walls and a vault.
The city of Paestum was abandoned by the 9th century due to malarial swamps and Muslim invaders, with a new settlement (the town of Capaccio) established on higher ground a few kilometers away. The Bishop of Paestum became the Bishop of Capaccio, but the old basilica was not entirely abandoned - it continued to be visited occasionally by the faithful.
In subsequent centuries, the site of ancient Paestum and indeed the entire region was in a bad state. Poverty, corruption and banditry were all widespread. Occasional attempts were made by bishops of Capaccio to restore the old basilica, including a partial restructuring in the early 16th century. At the end of the 17th century, another bishop made repairs to prevent its imminent collapse.
After the rediscovery of Paestum's temples and the subsequent flow of visitors to the site in the 18th century, the church was given an unfortunate Baroque makeover. Thankfully, however, the ancient basilica remained mostly intact beneath the Baroque additions and, after 20th-century excavations, much of it has been revealed again.
What to See at Byzantine Church
The ancient church of Paestum would be easy to miss if you didn't know to look for it. Set back from a square near the Archaeological Museum, it hides behind a bland facade below street level.
Inside, the Baroque pillars have been carved away to reveal the original columns reused from the Greco-Roman city and the original floor, 2 meters below the newer floor level. The basilica is small and simple, with a central nave, side aisles, and an apse at the east end.
Adjoining the south side of the basilica is a Bishop's Palace, built by Bishop Raimondi in 1720.
Quick Facts on Byzantine Church
|Names:||La basilica paleocristiana della SS. Annunziata a Paestum · Basilica Paleocristiana · Byzantine Church · Chiesa Dell'Annunziata · Paestum Church|
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (Annunciation)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||40.424013° N, 15.007399° E|
|Address:||Piazza della Basilica 1|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Byzantine Church|
- Personal visit (April 9, 2008).
- Historical plaque at the site.
- Le Chiese di Paestum - PaestumOnLine.com
- Chiesa paleocristiana - Strabon
Map of Byzantine Church, Paestum
Below is a location map and aerial view of Byzantine Church. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.