Holy Land: 6th-century mosaic discovered intact near Jericho

A 6th-century Byzantine church with elaborate mosaic floors was uncovered near Jericho, the oldest known city in history. The Civil Administration of the West Bank intends to move the building and put it on display in the mosaic museum at the Good Samaritan site.

Experts said the church was still being used during the Early Muslim Period. Even though Islam bans the display of icons and images in public places, the mosaic floors showed no indications of damage from destructive iconoclasm.

The church has 250 square meters and must have been one of the largest places of Christian worship at the time. Its nave was almost completely preserved and is covered with a mosaic depicting vine braids and animal figures.

Construction included materials not found locally, such as marble columns and black bitumen stone that would have required great effort to transport from other areas, which indicated the church builders’ wealth.

A three-meter-long inscription containing five lines in Greek and found in the prayer area commemorates Georgios and Nonus, apparently the church’s founders.

The building survived a major earthquake in 749 although it was abandoned and deliberately sealed at the time perhaps to avoid destruction by local Muslims.

Photo: The Civil Administration of the West Bank

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