HIDDEN away in full sight is one of the lesser known gems of San Pedro – the Visigothic church known as La Basilica de Vega del Mar.
The remains of one of the oldest churches in Andalucia are within a stone’s throw of the sandy beach that borders the Linda Vista a urbanisation.
At first sight this pleasant housing estate doesn’t offer much to lovers of ancient history, but for those willing to take a closer look, the evidence of pre-Islamic Spain is there to see.
These remains can be found on Calle los Eucalyptus, and together with the nearby Roman baths, the site be located on the Roman settlement of Cilniana, though the exact location of this town has been lost in the mists of time.
The basilica was discovered in 1915-16, but extensive excavations only began in 1929-30, led by archaeologist Jose Perez de Barradas. He and his team mapped out the structure of the basilica and unearthed 148 tombs, though later excavations have found a total of over 200. The most significant of these is the ‘Constantine Crimson’, named after the Holy Roman Emperor Constantine, which may be the oldest Christian tombstone found in Spain.
The origins of the basilica are disputed. While the adjacent necropolis dates back to Roman rule in the early fourth century, archaeologists disagree over the construction of the basilica. Perez de Barradas placed its foundation in the last third of the fourth century, but the prevailing consensus today is that it was built in the sixth century by the Visigoths.
The basilica exhibits several significant architectural features. Evident from the remains are its rectangular plan and the presence of three naves, though perhaps the most interesting feature of the building is its apses. Unlike most churches from this epoch, the Basilica de Vega del Mar has two apses, which are the semicircular terminations or recesses of an ecclesiastical building. Unusually, the western apse is its principle one.
The basilica is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11.15 am to 2pm and is free to visit. However, these times may vary due to COVID-19. For more information and to arrange tours, call the Delegacion Municipal de Cultura of Marbella council on 952 825 035.