Christianity in Gorsium-Herculia-Föveny

Christianity in Gorsium-Herculia-Föveny

Hungary’s Transdanubian region was once part of Pannonia, a province of the Roman Empire. The village of Tác is located in this region, a few miles south of the city of Székesfehérvár. A Roman city is being excavated near Tác. The already unearthed city walls and gates, villas, shops, halls, the amphitheater, the harbor, cemeteries, pagan shrines and early Christian churches can be visited in the archeological park. As it can be seen from the air, the total area of the settlement was about 247 acres (100 hectares). Only a small part of it has been uncovered to this day.

The Pagan Gorsium

A Roman military camp was established here in the 1st century AD. The camp was dissolved in AD 103–106, and a new city called Gorsium was established on this site by the Emperor Trajan. Gorsium lay at one of the most important road intersections in the province, and it was the center of emperor worship in Pannonia and the seat of the provincial assembly. Delegates from all over the province gathered here once every year to offer sacrifices to their gods for the glory of the reigning emperor, and to attend the assembly meetings. The city was full of pagan shrines, reliefs and monuments. According to the artifacts, the inhabitants of the city worshipped Aeneas, Amor, Icarus, Achilles, Jupiter, Silvanus, Minerva, Liber, Attis, Hercules, Venus, Luna, Juno, Mars, Victoria, Diana, Mithra and others.

The Christian Herculia

gorsium map
A section of the map of Gorsium-Herculia with the two early Christian churches.

Gorsium was destroyed by a Sarmatian attack in AD 260. A new city was built in its place decades later under the name of Herculia. Herculia was a Christian town with Christian churches. Herculia flourished at the end of the 4th century, when its area was about 111 acres (45 hectares). The graves and cemeteries found in the city and around it point to an inhabited city until the Turkish invasion of the 16th century. The conquering Magyars (Hungarians) probably found a population here which was partially or totally Christian. The name of the settlement in the middle ages, beginning with the 11th century, was Föveny (meaning sand or grit). The early Christian basilica served as the village’s church up until the Tartar invasions. Föveny was destroyed in the 16th century Turkish wars.

Early Christian Buildings Excavated in Gorsium-Herculia

The ruins of some of the buildings of Gorsium from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and that of Herculia from the 4th and 5th centuries can be seen in the archeological park.

Basilica I

Basilica I (the basilica on the left of the map) was an early Christian church, 82′ (25 m) long and 39′ (12 m) wide, with an apse on the side opposite the entrance. There is a baptistery built from brick on the eastern side of the apse. A beautifully sculpted white marble altar balustrade was found in Székesfehérvár, which was probably removed from the basilica and carried away during the middle ages. The basilica functioned for many centuries, as the graves of the migration period found around it testify. It was also the church of the village of Föveny after the Hungarian Conquest in the Middle Ages.

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Basilica I viewed from its entrance.Basilica I viewed from its back apse.

Basilica II

Basilica II was an early Christian church, 79′ (24 m) long and 43′ (13 m) wide. The diameter of the apse at its end was 21′ (6.5 m). The floor was made of brick, part of which is still intact. The church was probably built at the end of the 3rd century, when the city was reestablished. It was destroyed in the 5th century.

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Basilica II viewed from its front right corner.Basilica II viewed from inside.

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