Archaeologists uncover early Christian church with ornate mosaic in Jericho


A view of modern-day Jericho, the site of a recently uncovered sixth-century church. / Tamar Hayardeni|Wikimedia Commons|GFDL

Boston, Mass., Jan 13, 2023 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A team of Israeli archaeologists has discovered a sixth-century Byzantine church with highly decorated mosaic floors.

The Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit, which oversees historical sites in Judea and Samaria, announced Wednesday that the church was found in Jericho, a Palestinian town located in the West Bank, according to The Times of Israel.

The agency is part of the government of Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, which is part of the Ministry of Defense.

The outlet reported that the church is 250 square meters large, which would have made the building a relatively large church for its time. The Civil Administration said the church was still being used during the Early Muslim Period, according to the outlet.

Islam came to the region in the early seventh century, when the Muslim army defeated Jerusalem in 636. The outlet reported that the mosaic floors of the church were not damaged by iconoclasm — the destruction of religious images — even though Islam prohibits displaying icons and images in public.

The Times reported that the nave of the church is nearly fully preserved. The nave is the center part of the church where the laity prays, kneels, and praises during liturgy. An elaborate mosaic of vine braids and animal depictions covers the nave, The Times reported.

The Civil Administration said the church was constructed with materials that were not from the local area, including marble and black bitumen stone, the outlet reported.

The Civil Administration said it would have been a difficult task to transport those materials to the area, which indicates the builders of the church had wealth, the outlet reported.

A three-meter-long Greek inscription commemorating two public figures who donated to the construction of the church, Georgios and Nonus, was also found in the church, The Times reported.

The outlet reported that the area where the church was located sustained a major earthquake in A.D. 749 that destroyed churches throughout the region. The church, however, was abandoned before the earthquake, the outlet reported.

The Civil Administration said it “sees great importance in the discovery of antiquities” and will continue its archeological work “for the continued discovery of the area’s glorious past,” according to The Times.

The ruins of the church will be put on display at the Good Samaritan Museum along with the mosaics, the outlet reported. The museum is located near Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank.

The museum is dedicated to sharing historical evidence of the Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan faiths, according to the website.

In the early to middle part of the sixth century, the area where the church was found would have been under the governance of Catholic Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine Empire.

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  1. Des archéologues découvrent à Jéricho une église paléochrétienne

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