Stelae and carved stone crosses are a common phenomenon in early Christian Kartli. They are believed to date between the C5th and C10th. One of the earliest and most well-known is the stela from Bolnisi in Kvemo Kartli which has been ascribed a date of the C5th-C6th and which is now housed in the Shalva Amiranashvili State Museum of Art in Tbilisi.
The basilica at Dayr es Salib has an almost square floorplan and is believed to date to the C5th-C6th. The remains of a Greek-style ambon and a cruciform baptismal font are still in situ at the site.
Gemiler Island is dotted with several late antique church's from the 4th-6th century AD and is believed to have been the original burial site of St Nicholas, the 4th century AD Bishop of Myra. A covered processional walkway leads to the uppermost and largest church on the island which is cut into the summit of the hill. Fresco's and writing are still visible on portions of one of the lower churches. By the sea, facing the mainland and partially submerged, lie the remains of relatively small structures cut into the rock, likely houses and or shops. Large cisterns are also to be found, presumably to provide fresh water to the permanent monastic population that would have occupied the island and to thirsty pilgrims to the site.
The impressively preserved city walls of Resafa are the subject of some debate when regards to their age and to who's reign their construction can be credited to. Scholars seem to be split as to whether they were constructed in the reigns of the Emperor Anastasius (491-518 AD) or the Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD). Procopius' attributes the first stone wall to the reign of Justinian. However this cannot be wholly accepted as fact as Procopius' accounts are occasionally deliberately misleading and sometimes wholly inaccurate. The most well preserved and impressive of the gates still extant is the Sura Gate on the north side of the city.
Regardless of which reign they were constructed in the defences do seem to be Late Antique. The walls, their covered galleries, the towers and gates were well preserved when I visited in 2010. As a result of the civil war their current condition is hard to ascertain.
In the mid-fourth century, a church was constructed around a grotto in the town of Nazareth that was said to be the Virgin Mary’s house and the place where the archangel Gabriel appeared to her during the Annunciation. This holy site was clearly well established as a place of worship towards the end of the fourth century as the pilgrim Egeria describes an altar within a grand and splendid grotto. The Piacenza pilgrim who journeyed to Nazareth in the late sixth century states that there is a basilica at the House of Mary that contains many garments that once belonged to the Virgin. Today, remnants of wall paintings, mosaics, and the architecture from this early church building are visible.
Tags: Annunciation, Architecture, C20th, C4th, C5th-C6th, Cave, Christ, Christian, Cross, Foliage, Fresco, Geometric Motif, Greek Inscription, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Mosaic, Nazareth, Pilgrimage, St. Gabriel, Staurogram, Virgin Mary
A short distance from the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the Milk Grotto. This is the place where the Holy Family are believed to have taken refuge during the Massacre of the Innocents and before their flight into Egypt. The Virgin Mary is said to have nursed Christ in this grotto and legend states that a drop of her milk fell to the ground and turned the rock white. In the fifth century, a church was built around the holy site to celebrate this event and pilgrims venerated it throughout Late Antiquity. The Franciscans constructed the present church in the late nineteenth century.
Capernaum is an ancient fishing town situated on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee and the ancient highway, the Via Maris, passed through it. It is identified as the place where Christ settled and as it was referred to as “his own town” (Matthew 9:1). He taught in the synagogue (which was rebuilt in the fifth century), it is the place where He healed the paralysed man and it is also the site of Peter’s house. Today, Capernaum is in ruins. It is possible to see the foundations of the houses and the original synagogue that were all made from a local basalt stone. Many decorated stones from the fifth century synagogue are also dotted around the site.
Tags: Architecture, Basalt, C1st-C2nd, C4th-C5th, C5th-C6th, Capernaum, Christ, Christian, Church, Column, Foliage, Galilee, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Jew, Menorah, Pilgrimage, Shrine, Synagogue, Via Maris, Wall
The place of the miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes is located on the north-western shores of the Sea of Galilee. The first church constructed on the site was built in the mid-fourth century. It was small, its altar was formed from the rock upon which Christ laid the bread and fish and it was not oriented to the east. In the late-fifth Century, it was enlarged to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims who visited the site, it was given an eastern orientation and was laid with mosaics of flora and fauna. The modern church built on the site follows the plans of the later church.
A small chapel is located on a hillside to the south of the church at Kursi and is thought to commemorate the exact spot where the Miracle of the Swine took place. Today, it is in a very ruinous state and consists of an apse built into the hillside as well as pillars and a stone bench. The floor was decorated with mosaics and there is evidence for at least two layers of different designs. The lower and earlier layer is simply decorated with a predominantly beige ground and is highlighted with a grey border. The above and later layer consists of crosses within a highly detailed geometric design. It is believed to date to the same period as the church below (late 5th – mid 6th Century).