The spectacular remains of a 1,500-year-old monastery and church in Israel uncovered recently echo a wonderful story of outstanding preservation in the ancient era. Adorned with mosaic floors and imported marble elements, the latest findings extend a virtual treat to eyes. By Archana Sharma
The Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 1,500-year-old monastery and church in a large-scale excavation conducted recently in Beit Shemesh, Israel. These structures are said to belong to the Byzantine Period and form the latest additions to the fascinating archaeological finds in the country. The project, conducted with the help of over 1000 teenagers from different groups, mostly schools and pre-military organisations, have revealed some interesting information about its history.
From what we know, both the monastery and the church are adorned with impressive mosaic floors and the imported marble elements. What still remains a mystery is why this beautiful building was abandoned in the 7th century CE. Benyamin Storchan, Director of the excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority, says, “We have uncovered the remains of walls built of large worked stone masonry and a number of architectural elements during the excavation. These include a marble pillar base decorated with crosses and marble window screens. In one of the rooms, we have uncovered a beautiful mosaic floor decorated with birds, leafs, and pomegranates. We already know of a number of ancient churches and monasteries in the Judean Shephelah, but this one has outstanding preservation. We were surprised by the wonderful state of preservation of the ancient remains, and the richness of the finds being uncovered.”
The artefacts found in the large building, which seem to be a monastic compound, may indicate that the site was important and perhaps a centre for ancient pilgrims in the Judean Shephelah region. Why? Because the marble artefacts were probably brought in from the region of Turkey and further inland countries to Israel by wagon.