The Aquincum traffic jam blog (#9)

Early Christian funerary chapel

In Óbuda we can come across Roman remains or modern structures hiding them if we take a quick look every now and again to the right or the left. Let’s continue the Aquincum traffic jam blog then with another site from Óbuda.

So where are we now?

We’re on Hunor Street, running parallel to Vörösvári Road, in the direction of Flórián Square. At the intersection of Hunor, Kunigunda, Raktár and Körte Street, we come across a small park and the remains of a building with a curious-looking ground plan. We’re at the so-called cella trichora, the funerary chapel with three apses.

But first the history!

The emperors Constantine (the Great) and Licinius issued the so-called Edict of Milan in 313, which guaranteed freedom of worship for Christians living in the Roman Empire, including Aquincum. A few decades later, during the mid-4th century, in the north-western quarter of the Aquincum Military Town, the cella trichora was constructed. It is one of the most significant architectural remains of the Christian communities of ancient Aquincum that can be seen today.

By then, the layout of the Military Town had changed completely. During the course of the 4th century, the town’s inhabited areas had shrunk and shifted to the vicinity of the Late Roman fortress built under Constantine the Great, around present-day Árpád Bridge. Instead of using the old cemeteries along the roads leading out of the town, the remaining population began to bury its dead among the dilapidated and demolished buildings of what once used to be residential areas.

The clover-shaped funerary chapel with three apses, too, was built on top of the remains of a building that fell into ruins in the first half of the 4th century. Excavations around the chapel found Early Christian graves from the Late Roman period as well as several similar apsidal funerary monuments. Of all this, however, what we can still see is the ground plan of the cella trichora.

What can we see today?

We enter the 9 m by 9 m chapel through an oblong vestibule. Construction and development works that preceded the excavations had completely destroyed the walls of the chapel. During the conservation of the ruins, the foundations of the building were raised by half a meter using alternative materials. Around the cella trichora we can see the walls of earlier buildings from multiple periods (dating to the 2nd-3rd century CE) which preceded the chapel. Those buildings once opened onto the Roman predecessor of the modern-day Hunor Street.

Soon we’ll continue our search for Roman remains as there are still plenty of other hidden and conspicuous monuments to discover in Óbuda; but more on those later.

All in all, I encourage everyone to have a look at the remains of the cella trichora Early Christian funerary chapel with three apses on foot (for the best view), or from the warmth of your car on a cold winter morning – but only when the traffic isn’t moving!

Zoltán Quittner

Click here to read the previous entries of the Aquincum traffic jam blog!


Széchenyi 2020
Széchenyi 2020