The Byzantine church at al-Mushabak (المشبك) was described by archaeologist Howard Crosby Butler as “one of the most perfectly preserved of all the basilica churches of Northern Syria” during his surveys in the early 1900s. This remains true today, the church having survived another century without any significant damage. The basilica was originally constructed in the third quarter of the fifth century, at the same time nearby Qalaat Samaan (قلعة سمعان) was developing into an important center of pilgrimage. It is speculated that al-Mushabak (المشبك) was built to serve as stopping point on the pilgrimage route, explaining the lack of other substantial buildings in the immediate area.
The three-aisle columned basilica borrows several eclectic architectural ideas. The internal dimensions are almost 18 meters by 12 meters, and the use of nine semi-circular arched windows in a clerestory supported by five 4.5 meter columns adds a sense of height similar to the main church at Kharab Shams (خراب شمس). The more plentiful use of windows is also found on the western façade, where six openings above the portal and two on each side are complemented by a further three in the triangular entablature. The decoration is minimal, restricted largely to the varied carvings of the column capitals and over the doorways. The overall effect shows a considerable evolution from the earlier uninspired church designs based on enlarged house architecture. The striving for greater light and height achieves some success. As usual, two annex rooms lead off the side aisles, but the northern one (a martyrium) also has a door leading off the apse.
Getting There: al-Mushabak (المشبك) is roughly five hundred meters south of the road connecting Aleppo (حلب) to Darat Azeh (دارة عزة), clearly visible on a hilltop from the road. Any microbus traveling between Aleppo (حلب) and Darat Azeh (دارة عزة) can drop you off at the dirt road to the site, leaving a short hike to the church. It should be fairly easy to find onward transportation after your visit.
Coordinates: 36°15’17.00″N / 36°53’01.00″E
Transliteration Variants: al-Mushabbak, al-Mashabak, al-Mashabbak
Rating: (5 / 10)