Bishop Eusebius, the first church historian, left us most of our descriptions of early Christian basilicas.
But when one comes within the gates he does not permit him to enter the sanctuary immediately, with impure and unwashed feet; but leaving as large a space as possible between the temple and the outer entrance, … Here he has placed symbols of sacred purifications, setting up fountains opposite the temple which furnish an abundance of water wherewith those who come within the sanctuary may purify themselves. This is the first halting-place of those who enter; and it furnishes at the same time a beautiful and splendid scene to every one, and to those who still need elementary instruction a fitting station.
Can it be that you have forgotten that passage [Exodus 20:3-6] in which God lays down the law that no likeness should be made either of what is in heaven or what is in the earth beneath? … Are not such things banished and excluded from churches all over the world
Pictures and statues were profane in these great buildings. Marble was fine. So was gold, silver. But not images. For the Christian then, like the Jew, like the muslim when he came later, images profaned. But this changed. Icons became acceptable , , later used against Christians by Moslems.
Why did imagery become acceptable? Perhaps the draw of the Greeks? But the washing? What happened to that?