Also called quincunx, the most important type of church building of the middle and late Byzantine periods of the Byzantine empire. It characteristically consists of an approximately square room, the naos, from which is cut out an internal cross-shaped unit by erecting four columns at the center and joining them by means of arches to the outer walls. The central area, again square, always carries a pendentive dome, while the cross arms extending outward from it are barrel-, cross-, or sail-vaulted.
The small corner sections outside the cross arms are likewise covered with cross- or sail-vaults. In the East this naos, organized in such a way, is joined to a normal sanctuary consisting of three chambers, each of which is usually furnished with a little eastern apse, which is, as a rule, encased on three sides on the east outer wall. At the west end a simple, equally vaulted narthex is mostly attached. In addition, this type of building may be provided with an ambulatory.
The cross-in-square type presumably was realized for the first time around A.D. 880 in the so-called Nea, the new palace church of Emperor Basil I (867-886) in Constantinople. This edifice has not been preserved, but it is adequately known from some contemporary descriptions and numerous succeeding buildings.
The earliest examples are the north church of the monastery of Lips (Fenari Isa Camii) from 907 and the church of the Myrelaion (Bodrum Camii) from 920. Also well known are the Panagia ton Chalkeon (1028) from Thessalonica and the Theotokos church of Hosios Loukas at Stiris in Phocis, whose date is a still unsettled problem.
Until the end of the late Byzantine period Byzantine church architecture was dominated almost exclusively by the cross-in- square type. The changes it underwent in the course of time in no way affected the basic principle of the type. This is the case even with the reduced version that appears from the late eleventh century, in which the eastern cross arm coincided with the central chamber of the sanctuary. The pair of columns at the front was thereby rendered superfluous.
On the other hand, in Egypt the cross-in-square can be found only in a few isolated instances, which for the most part have reached us in a state of irreparable later distortion. The buildings in question are some hall churches from the Mamluk period, such as the church of Dayr al-Shahid Tadrus al-Muharib at MADINAT HABU, and the church of Amir Tadrus at Old Cairo, which in its present form presumably dates from the eighteenth century.
Since all the bays have been uniformly covered with sail-vaults, which are not very flexible in their proportions, the examples mentioned do not display a spatial accentuation of the center. Only the dome over the central bay is taller. Unlike the Byzantine cross-in-square, they are, moreover, provided with a khurus, which is a normal feature of Egyptian churches even into the Mamluk period.
In Nubia the situation is substantially different. As a result of the general decline in population in the thirteenth century and the decline of Christianity accompanying it, the existing churches were not transformed through rebuilding. Consequently, several churches comparable to the Byzantine cross-in-square have been preserved there. Characteristic examples are the church of Archangel Raphael at TAMIT, the church at Faqirdib, and presumably also the north church at ‘ABDALLAH NIRQI.
Unlike the Byzantine edifices, columns were never applied in these buildings for easily explainable reasons. The supports are pillars bricked up using rubble or mud bricks, and in order to achieve greater stability, they very often also have a cruciform cross-section. Furthermore, here one finds that the spatial accentuation of the center that is essential to the type is only very negligently observed. A beautiful example of a reduced cross- in-square from Nubia is provided by the cemetery church at Tamit.
[See also: Architectural Elements of Churches.]
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