Avant-corps: vestibule, narthex, atrium. The fa§ade of the basilica generally has one or more main entrances; in small buildings a single opening is possible, but more often we find a door corresponding to each aisle; the fa§ade is provided with windows and oculi high up, which are sometimes the only source of direct illumination for the side aisles when the sides have no windows. Some churches of Greece, Syria and Asia Minor have preserved their fa§ades entire, and it is possible to observe such apertures. Virginia Beach Subway Map In some cases in Syria, and perhaps in the Balkans, we find a monumental fa- §ade outlined by two corner towers, whose exact height cannot now be determined e.g., Qalb Loz and whose use may vary decorative, defensive or even staircase towers to reach the galleries, e.g., a single tower in front of the fa§ade of the church of the Byzantine citadel of Haidra in Tunisia. Some Roman fa§ades S. Maria Maggiore and SS. Giovanni e Paolo seem to have been open with arcades at ground level, doubtless because preceded by a vestibule. In some regions, e.g., N Syria, the main doors may be at the side because of the existence of a lateral courtyard see below.
Many churches are preceded by a simple porticoed fa§ade or by a vestibule or by a transverse room integrated into the body of the building. In, e.g., N Africa the vestibule and the portico are much more frequent than the atrium. In the E Mediterranean, esp. in the Balkans, at Constantinople and in Asia Minor, at the entrance to the church we frequently find a transverse room which often connected via a large subdivided opening tribelon with the quadratum populi.
The narthex may have had a liturgical function in these regions, since it was there that the unbaptized catechumens took part in the divine office. The term narthex must not be applied to mere vestibules existing in the same place in other regions. It sometimes happens that this transverse room is double: in such cases we distinguish the exonarthex, which may be a mere vestibule, and the esonarthex, or narthex proper. The ends of the narthex or vestibule sometimes have the form of an apse, as also in civil architecture. In at least two cases, on the island of Brae in Dalmatia and at Apollonia in Cyrenaica, one of these apses is provided with sedilia and so undoubtedly had a liturgical role.
The great churches of Rome and Italy, Greece and the Balkans, Asia Minor and Palestine, often have a frontal courtyard or atrium, an uncovered space surrounded by porticoes, sometimes with an extra story. But the frontal atrium is exceptional in Syria in one region of N Syria the courtyard is at the side and rare in N Africa except for the great churches of Carthage which had them in their phase of maximum development. The quadriportico is the ideal, but the peristyle may be incomplete, without E or W side. The E side, in front of the fa§ade of the church, may be distinguished by being at a higher level i.e., that of the basilica or by a more monumental character larger columns, as in the so-called Rhodian peristyle in houses, or by being partly enclosed in sections of wall which restrict passage, in which case it plays the role of a vestibule and is commonly given the name exonarthex, contested by, e.g., P. Lemerle. The uncovered space may be protected, at least partially, by gates barring the intercolumnar spaces.
In the center there was often a fountain or pool like those in the center of house peristyles, the bestknown example being the pool with a column crowned with a pinecone in the center of the Vatican atrium cantharus. It could be laid out as a garden, like the peristyles of Roman houses, whence the name paradisus. We know some cases of an atrium Philippi, Stobi in Macedonia whose W side was a monumental nymphaeum, a cascade of water like that found in contemporary houses e.g., at Stobi, Syrian Apamea, Ostia. Some atria are not quadrangular but, like that of Damous el Karita at Carthage or the Lechaion at Corinth, end in a semicircular portico in front of the church. The atrium may even be preceded by another courtyard or by monumental propylaea, as existed, e.g., at the Vatican, at Gerasa in Jordan and at Tebessa in Algeria.