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7. Of The Outer Buildings, or Exedrae

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER IX. Of Churches and Sacred Places

7. Of The Outer Buildings, or Exedrae

Under this name were included all the appendages belonging to the church, such as courts, side-buildings, wings, etc. together with all those separate buildings pertaining to the main edifice, which were situated in the enclosure of the church-yard. This enclosure around the church was known by various names, *, ambitus, peristylia, etc. The area between the wall and the church was called atruim, impluvium, *, etc.

In this open space stood the demoniacs, and the weeping penitents, neither of whom were permitted to enter within the walls of the church. About the sixth century it became customary to use the church yard as a burial place. In some instances it was so used as early as the fourth century.

But the most important of the exedrae were the baptisteries which were erected adjacent to the cathedral churches, denominated for this reason, baptismal, and central churches. They must be referred to those times, when it was customary for the bishop himself to administer this ordinance only in these churches, and at stated seasons. These baptisteries are spoken of as in general use in the fourth century, from which it may be inferred that they are of high antiquity. The candidates for baptism were accustomed to meet in the baptistery to receive the instructions requisite for their reception to this ordinance, and, for this purpose, it was divided into separate apartments for the accommodation of both sexes. Meetings of the whole congregation, and of synods could also be held here, from which we may form some idea of the magnitude of these buildings. The remains of these baptisteries are still extant.

There were also several other smaller buildings situated about the church, such as the vestry or repository, diaconicum magnum, in which the sacred utensils, – the ornaments and robes of the clergy were deposited for safe keeping. These were entrusted to the care of the deacons and inferior clergy. It was also called * vestiarium mutatorium. Here the clergy were wont to retire for private exercises preparatory to their public performances, and for private rehearsals and examination before the bishop; from whence it was called secretum, or secretarium. It was also a general audience room, where friends and acquaintances meet to exchange their affectionate salutations and inquiries, hence called salutatorium, receptorium, audience chamber, repository. Many are of opinion that this building was also used as a prison house for the confinement of delinquent clergymen. Others suppose that these ecclesiastical prisons were separate edifices, called decanica, but that there were such places of confinement is undeniable. 

There was another class of buildings called pastophoria, but the learned are not agreed respecting the use of them. According to Rosenmüller, they were a kind of guard, or watch-house. Others suppose them to have been apartments for the accommodation of the clergy.

Libraries were at a very early period collected and kept in connection with the churches, which were furnished, not merely with the scriptures in the original and in translations, together with the books necessary for the church service, but with commentaries, homilies, catechisms, and theological works. These libraries were of great importance, and often were very extensive. The libraries of Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople were kept in separate buildings, adjacent to the church. From the libraries of Jerusalem and Caesarea, both Eusebius and Jerome chiefly derived the materials for their writings. The library of St. Sophia contained 120,000 volumes.

Schools were very early established in connection with the churches. If no building was provided for this purpose, the schools were taught in the baptistery, and the vestry. The teachers of these schools always instructed their catechumens privately, and were never allowed to give public instructions. The sixth general council of Constantinople directs the presbyters in country towns and villages to have schools to teach all such children as were sent to them, for which they should exact no reward, nor receive anything, unless the parents of the children thought fit to make them a charitable donation by way of voluntary contribution. From all which it is apparent that the primitive Christians regarded these schools as having an intimate connection with their churches, and essential to the promotion of the same great end.

The bishops and clergy had houses allotted to them adjacent to the church, called * 

Bathing houses are also mentioned, and public rooms, called *, diversoria, lodging places, supposed by some to be a kind of inn, – by others they are regarded as a common place of resort for rest and for recreation.

Hospitals for the poor, and the sick, were also maintained in connection with the churches.

Paul. Nol. ep. 12: Cyril, Hieros. Catech. mystag. i. 2. ii. 1: Sidon. Ep. iv. 15: August. De civ. Dei, 22. 8: Ambros. Ep. 33: Gregor. Turon. hist. 6. 11: Justin, Novell. 58. 42: Concil. Trull, c. 59: Cone. Constant, sub. Minna, Act. 1.

Theodoret, h. e. v. c. 18: Sulpit. Sex. Dial. ii. c. 1: Praef. ad Concil. Carthag. iii. iv.

Cod. Theodos. lib. xvi. tit. v. 1. 30: Justin, Nov. 79. c. 3: Du Cange, Comment, in Paul Silent, p. 594: Gregor. ii. ep. ad Leon. Isaur.: Jo. Graetner, De incarcerat. clericor. cum et sine catena.

Euseb. h. e. vi. c. 20: Augustin. De haeres, c. 80: Basil M. Ep. 82: Hieron. cat. script, eccl. c. 3, 75, 113: Comment, in Tit. 3.

Hospinian, De templis, lib. iii. c. 6: Lomeier, De Bibliothecis: J. M. Claudenii, D. de fortuna Bibl.: D. Augustini, En excidio Hipponensi.

Euseb. Vit. Const. M. lib. iv. c. 59: Cod. Theodos. lib. ix. tit. xlv. 1.4.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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