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
Capernaum is an ancient fishing village situated on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Within an insula of this village are a number of rooms that are traditionally associated with the house of Peter the Apostle. A simple, square room within this complex was given particular attention by the Christian community in the years immediately following his death. In the fourth century, this room became a Domus Ecclesia (a house church) and was the place for Christian prayer and gatherings. The numerous inscriptions on the painted plaster of this place suggest that it was a prominent centre of pilgrimage, even by this early period. In the fifth century, an octagonal church was built over the house church. It consisted of an inner octagon that was directly over the venerated room, a larger concentric octagon and an outer semi-octagon.
Tags: Architecture, Basalt, C1st-C2nd, C20th, C4th, C5th, Capernaum, Centrally-Planned, Christ, Christian, Church, Domus Ecclesia (house church), Galilee, Geometric Motif, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Mosaic, Octagonal, Pilgrimage, St. Peter, Wall
The church of Bennawi, south of Aleppo, was reported destroyed by the 1950s when Georges Tchalenko undertook his monumental three volume study of the Syrian Limestone Massif. The basalt "bema throne" or pulpit was preserved and is now in the garden of the National Museum in Damascus.
This is one of two monastery complexes in Dayr Seman, which when it was visited and photographed in 1997 was in a very good state of preservation and partially inhabited by a Kurdish family. The Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) later evicted them, but it may now be reinhabited.
Dayr Yakub is a C5th monastery on the edge of the suburbs to the south of Urfa. The monastery is built on the top of a hill above an ancient quarry and clearly appropriated the site of a former pagan sanctuary. The earlier cult complex was also used as a necropolis as well as a place of sacrifice as a Palmyrene-style tomb tower, complete with a Syriac inscription, was incorporated into the later monastery buildings.
Soǧmatar (also referred to as Sumatar Harabesi) was the centre of an ancient shrine to a deity known as Marilaha (Lord God). This is known from a number of C2nd AD Syriac inscriptions cut into the summit of a high rock outcrop. The approach to this ritual high place also had reliefs of the sun and moon gods cut into the rock. Nearby is a cave, referred to as the Pognon cave after the first European to record the site, with carved images of gods and a number of Syriac inscriptions that was obviously used for some kind of funerary or cult practice, A large circular building that shows some affinities with Zoroastrian 'towers of silence' completes the grouping of monuments, but the exact function of the last mentioned element has yet to be fully understood. What is clear is that this was not a permanently occupied town, but rather a holy place of pilgrimage where the faithful would gather for key festivals. These would be officiated at by priests, but whether these religious personages lived at Soǧmatar all the time or not is unclear.
The C6th basilica in Dmanisi has been substantially altered over time, notably with the addition of a medieval narthex, and is located beside the citadel of the now abandoned city that once stood on this site. Older elements have been reused in buildings surrounding the church and there is an Arabic inscription on one of the gravestones in the vicinity.
Bolnisi Sioni church has the oldest dated inscription in the Georgian language on Georgian soil that states that the church was completed in 493 (the earliest securely dated Georgian inscriptions have been discovered in the Holy Land). The original inscription is now in the National Art Museum in Tbilisi, but a replica has been placed on the church wall. This tells that the building was completed by the end of the C5th and this is particularly notable given the exceptional size of the building. It is referred to as a five-aisled basilica. The central nave is flanked by aisles to the north and south, that end in presbyteries, but in addition doors lead on both the north and south sides to the same kind of semi-open arcades found at Nekresi. The northern aisle terminates in an apse, creating an al fresco chapel and is walled in to the south, east and west, but open to the elements on the north side. To the south, the central element of this arcade is open to the south, but the eastern and western extremities have been closed in to create two chambers at either end of the arcade. In addition there is a C17th belltower in the courtyard of the church. The church has received a new roof and parts of the architecture, particularly on the northern side, have recently been renovated.
Nekresi is a complex of churches in the foothills of the Caucasus near the border with Dagestan. In the valley beneath, archaeologists have found the remains of a sun temple and it is popularly believed that the early Christians appropriated an earlier sacred site, possibly a Zoroastrian high place, in building a church in the C4th at this location. However this belief has been disproved by archaeological excavation which has found no evidence of pre-Christian occupation at the site and has redated the 'C4th' building to the C6th. This structure has entrances on the north, south and east sides and is open to the elements on all sides. It has an undercroft that was used for burials suggesting that this was possibly built as a funerary chapel. The complex also includes a C6th-C7th basilica, known in Georgia as a triple basilica as the narthex opens onto three aisles, but the south aisle does not communicate with the main body of the church and both the north and south aisles are semi-open to the elements with arched arcades to the north and south. There is also an C8th-C9th centrally-planned church that shows a strong Persian influence in its design. The rest of the monastery complex is medieval and a series of early Georgian inscriptions excavated nearby are displayed within them. Nekresi is also associated with one of the Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers St. Abibos Nekreseli who was reputedly martyred for his resistance to Zoroastrianism.
As with Dolochopi and Dzveli Gavazi, a further visit to the site in the company of Professor Nodar Bakhtadze in August 2017 has led to discussion of the relative dating scheme applied to the "three church basilica" and the centrally-planned domed church and raised questions as to whether or not they were necessarily built that far apart in time. As with Dzveli Gavazi, the centrally-planned church at Nekresi is something of an anomaly given the ubiquity of the "three church basilica" type in Kakheti. In fact this church appears to be an experimental early version of a domed "three church basilica" as it has two apsed side aisles to the north and south of the central church. The northern aisle has a window to the east and is closed off, whereas the south aisle and the narthex in the west both have two arches and are open to the elements. The west and south arcades also have pilasters on the internal wall, as encountered at Areshi large basilica and Kindzmareuli. Inside the main part of the church the dome has windows to the east, south and west, but not on the north side. The dome itself is supported to the west by two squinches, whereas at the east there are what can only be referred to as 'proto-pendentives' - an arrangement also found in the later church of Khirsa Stepantsminda. There is also one other window placed in the apse. If this is an early attempt at a domed basilica, then it is likely to pre-date c.630 and the building of Tsromi to the west in Shida Kartli. It also raises questions as to why two variant forms of centrally-planned church were being experimented with perhaps almost at the same time in the same vicinity. Moving on to the "three church basilica" it is a large example of this type and has open arcades of two arches on both the north and south sides. There is a door to the north aisle from the main nave, but a corresponding door on the south aisle seems to have been sealed centuries ago as medieval frescoes now cover the area where the door once stood. As at Shilda, the entire construction took place as one project and the north and south aisles are firmly tied to the central nave. In the sixth century mortuary chapel (referred to in Georgian as the akeldama) it is clear that this was intially tied to another structure in the sixth century - possibly the refectory - and the later intervening space between the ossuary trench and the other building only became used as a burial ground for wealthy patrons and their families in the middle ages. The marani/refectory complex extant today dates from the twelfth century, as do the cells and work area excavated to the north of the main complex. The tower is sixteenth century, as is the tower at Shilda.
Tags: (As)Syrian Fathers, Architecture, Areshi, C12th, C16th, C4th, C6th-C7th, C8th-C9th, Centrally-Planned, Church, Dzveli Gavazi, Funerary Chapel, Georgia, Georgian, Georgian Inscription, Inscription, Kakheti, Khirsa, Kindzmareuli, Middle Ages, Nekresi, Shilda, Stepantsminda, Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers, Three Church Basilica, Triple Basilica, Tsromi, Zoroastrian
The Syrian Orthodox Church of SS. Peter and Paul has dedicatory inscriptions dated 1861 on the west entrance but appears to include elements of an older church. It is now called the Vali Kemalettin Gazezoğlu Cultural Centre.