Church of Saint Porphyrius
|Church of Saint Porphyrius|
|Location||Gaza, Palestinian territories|
|Ecclesiastical or organizational status||Active|
|Length||22.9 meters (75 ft)|
|Width||8.9 meters (29 ft)|
The Church of Saint Porphyrius (or St. Porphyrius Church, Arabic: كنيسة القديس برفيريوس) is the Orthodox Christian church of Gaza, and the oldest active church in the city. Located in the Zaytun Quarter of the Old City, it is named after the 5th century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius, whose tomb is situated in the northeastern corner of the church.
Original construction of the Church of Saint Porphyrius dates back to 425 CE, however the modern construction was undertaken by the Crusaders in the 1150s or 1160s and they dedicated it St. Porphyrius. Records from the 15th century show that dedication of the church was also attested to the Virgin Mary. In 1856, it was renovated. There are some cornices and bases that date back to the Crusader period, but much of the other portions are later additions.
The church was one of the targets of attacks in the Palestinian Territories in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's remarks citing a Byzantine scholar's critical position on Islam. It may be the church was targeted for the reason of the Byzantine link, or just being a convenient Christian shrine, even though there is no connection between the church and the Vatican.
The Church of Saint Porphyrius has a rectangular shape, ending with a half-domed roofed temple. Its pavement 1.8 meters (5.9 ft) below ground level in its southern part, and 3 meters (9.8 ft) below ground level at the northern end, suggesting that the present building was built atop of an earlier church structure. The church consists of a single aisle made up of two groin-vaulted bays, with a projecting semi-circular apse preceded by a barrel-vaulted presbytery. Internally, the building measures 22.9 meters (75 ft) by 8.9 meters (29 ft), including the apse. It has architectural and constructional similarities with the former Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist (currently the Great Mosque of Gaza).
There are three entrances for the church: the western one has a portico with three marble columns supporting two pointed arches. The bases of the marbles date from the Crusader era. The church can also be entered from its façade or from a side door which opens onto a modern gallery, equipped with stairs for going down to the level of the pavement. Its colossal walls are supported by horizontal marble and granite columns and pilasters.
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