The town of Bethlehem is located to the south of Jerusalem in the West Bank. Since the second century, pilgrims have flocked to the site traditionally associated as the place of Christ’s birth, a cave to the east of the town. In the fourth century, Helena, the Emperor Constantine’s mother, supposedly rediscovered the cave and had her son build a church to commemorate it. This church featured an octagonal structure at the eastern end that was positioned directly over the cave of the Nativity. At the centre of this octagon was a wide, circular opening to allow pilgrims to glimpse at the holy site. It was badly damaged during a Samaritan revolt in 529 AD and was rebuilt by the Emperor Justinian in the mid-sixth century. Much of this church has survived and is largely what is seen today. There were later modifications during the time of the Crusades, largely with the fresco painting on the nave columns. It is thus considered the oldest church in use.
Tags: Bethlehem, C12th, C2nd, C4th, C6th, Cave, Christ, Christian, Church, Column, Constantine, Corinthian, Crusades, Fresco, Geometric Motif, Holy Site, Icon, Justinian, Mosaic, Nativity, Octagonal, Pilgrimage, St. Helena, West Bank
The largest of the three temples at the site, the temple of Jupiter is perhaps most famous for the presence of the trilithon, three stones in the podium of the temple that are amongst the largest ever utilised by man.
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
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).
The monastic complex of Kursi is located to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is identified as Gergessa or the Land of the Gadarenes of the New Testament where the Miracle of the Swine took place. The complex was built between the end of the 5th to the mid 6th Century and was fortified by a surrounding wall. It features a church with a large apse at the end of the nave, two side aisles and the later additions of a baptistery and crypt. The floors were paved with mosaics of geometric designs, floral motifs, fruits and birds. The large cistern, bath complex and oil press for the production of holy oil suggests that Kursi was once a popular Late Antique pilgrimage destination. It suffered much damage during the Persian invasion of the 7th Century.
Tags: Architecture, Baptismal Font, Baptistery, Basalt, Bath, Bird, Bread Basket, C5th-C6th, Christ, Christian, Church, Cistern, Column, Cross, Foliage, Fruit, Galilee, Geometric Motif, Greek Inscription, Holy Site, Israel, Kursi, Monastery, Mosaic, Oil Press, Pilgrimage, Wall
Entrance to Urfa citadel, the man-made moat cut around the eastern and southern sides of the Citadel and the remaining standing architecture in the interior, including the two C3rd columns. There is also evidence of classical spolia reused in various sections of the citadel.
Sculpture, C6th-C7th. Found in Urfa, now in Urfa Museum.