Historical region of Country
Development in the 4th and 5th c. 5th-c. churches are rare. The first examples, however, like the church SE of Kellis Dakhla Oasis from the first half of the 4th c., are basilicas with quadripartite ambulatory. Inside the larger churches, like the southern church of Antinopolis P. Grossmann, Vic. Oriente 12 2000 269-281, fig. 1 and the oldest church ca. 336 of the main Pachomian convent of Pbou, today Fa’w al-Qibli P. Grossmann, Esempi d’arch., 151ff., fig. 1B, the central nave is tripartite, thus forming a larger space and giving the church a quality of having five aisles. All these buildings still have an undeniably provincial character. The same would have been true of most of the churches of this period, now lost. Presumably only in the capital, Alexandria, did monumental buildings exist in the 4th c. Historical region of Country Monumental examples must have existed in the church from the first half of the 5th c., since some buildings built in the mid 5th c. in Hermopolis Magna, Pbou and Suhag are unthinkable without a corresponding model.
They are among the best of that period and presuppose a fully developed architectural program, which would later undergo only small modifications. Noteworthy is the complex articulation of the naos, linked with two small transverse aisles and with a narthex on the W side of the church. From here to the naos, passage is assured by at least one door, and usually three. But only in the cathedral of Hermopolis Magna do we find an atrium. All the buildings have a sanctuary with more than one room, with a central space, normally apsed. In front of this is the altar, in a space that extends into the naos and is surrounded by cancelli.
Only in monastic churches is the altar situated in the central space of the sanctuary. In the church of the convent of Shenoute near Suhag, the so-called White Convent U. Monneret de Villard, Sohag I-II; P. Grossmann, Esempi d’arch., 155ff., fig. 3, and in a few other southern churches, the niche has the form of a triconch. Furthermore, some churches except perhaps the monastic church of Pbou, not yet completely studied have a matroneum, reached by stairs arranged at various points. The church of Pbou certainly had five aisles, of which the outside ones were conceived as quadrilateral corridors P. Grossmann, Esempi d’arch., 159. The episcopal church of Hermopolis Magna had a tripartite transept with horseshoe ends see Wace – Megaw – Skeat, Hermopolis Magna; this form, however, cannot be understood as a triconch. In the last quarter of the 5th c., the transept appears again in the great basilica and pilgrimage center of Abu Mina, the largest church known in Egyptian territory, where the arms of the transverse aisle present a genuine terminus see P. Grossmann, Abu Mina IX, 212ff.