Justinian’s “Flat-Pack” Church, Raised from the Seabed

“We hope it will be easier [to assemble] than an Ikea wardrobe.”
– Dr Alexander Sturgis, Oxford University

A prefabricated church, built in Justinian’s Constantinople and lost at sea off the coast of Sicily 1,500 years ago will soon be reassembled in Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum.

Justinian had such buildings constructed with interlocking pieces that might be be readily shipped and assembled in distant locations – the image above shows the ruins of one such Justinian construct from Libya.  They were transported by specially designed cargo vessels across his restored Roman Empire, and this particular church spent nearly fifteen hundred years on the Mediterranean seabed before it was discovered in the 1960’s.  While many pieces still lie submerged, Oxford will mount the structure with what they have to give museum-goers an opportunity to ‘visit’ a vestige of Justinian’s Rome.

For me, the sheer brilliance of the lego-like, prefabricated concept that Roman engineers invented fifteen centuries ago is an absolute marvel.  Cutting edge architectural magazines like Dwell now expound the pre-fab ‘trend’!   Just imagine Justinian’s ships plying Mare Nostrum fifteen centuries ago with civilization in their holds, exporting tangible proof of Rome’s continued strength long after the West had fallen away.

Click here for an article in the UK Telegraph (loaded with factual inaccuracies but fascinating nonetheless).

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