Qalb Lawza Basilica
Qalb Lawza, Syria

The basilica at Qalb Lawza is one of the most intact examples of church architecture among the ruins of the so-called "Dead Cities" of Syria: a series of ancient villages dating from the first through seventh centuries AD and abandoned for unknown reasons between the eighth and tenth scattered along Syria's Limestone Massif. This church is the earliest example on a monumental scale of the Syrian model of the broad-aisled basilica: instead of dividing the nave from the side aisles by rows of columns, the builders used sweeping transverse arches resting on piers, allowing for a freer integration of the three spaces. The church represents the development of a Syrian style of architecture as an offshoot from the Byzantine. 

The plan of the church is simple: a wide nave separated from smaller side aisles by the aforementioned arches terminates on its east end in an apse with a hemispherical stone vault. The church is entered on its west side via a monumental porch with a single large stone portal whose lintel is decorated with carving. The south side of the church also has entrances that lead directly onto the south side aisle. Windows illuminated the side aisles and a higher level of clerestory windows illuminated the nave, which rose to a height greater than the side aisles. 

Some remnants of architectural sculpture remain: in addition to acanthus decoration on the piers supporting the arches of the nave, door lintels bore carved vegetal motifs and medallions with crosses, and the extrados of the apse archway was adorned with an elegant frieze consisting of several registers including acanthus patterns and a vine scroll emerging from a chalice. 


Burns, Ross. The monuments of Syria: a guide, 245. London: I.B. Tauris, 2009.

Burns, Ross. "Qalb Lozeh." Monuments of Syria website. December 22, 2013, accessed September 23, 2015.

UNESCO. "Ancient Villages of Northern Syria." Accessed April 24, 2017. 

Qalb Lawza, Syria
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5th century AD
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Qalb Lawza Basilica
Qalb Lawza Church
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