Gortys, the Great Basilica
The great basilica of Gortys is near the archaeological site. Leave the car in the car park, cross the main road to Phaistos and the Mesara, and continue towards the village of Mitropolis.
On either side among the olive groves we can see ruins of once-powerful Gortys. Two hundred yards away, on the provincial road, is what remains of the majestic, five-aisled Early Christian basilica, also dedicated to St Titus.
The great basilica was discovered in 1978 during roadworks. The provincial road to Lendas cuts straight through it.
This is a huge building, the largest of its kind in Crete and one of the largest in Greece, covering the equivalent of a whole building block. This shows that it was the seat of a particularly prosperous metropolitan see.
It is hard to guess at the former splendour of what was once the largest church in Crete from its ruins, but archaeological finds point to the luxury building materials used, the rich decoration and the particularly advanced construction technique. The pulpit was intended to imitate that of St Sophia in Constantinople.
The great basilica was originally built in the mid-6th century (circa 500 AD), in the reign of Justinian. This first basilica was destroyed in the early 7th century and rebuilt as splendidly as before. After the earthquake of 670 AD, however, the second basilica - and almost the whole city of Gortys - was destroyed and abandoned.