Researchers have discovered the ruins of a 1,500-year-old church from the time of the Byzantine Empire near Jerusalem that was dedicated to an unknown "glorious martyr."
Excavations led by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Ramat Beit Shemesh discovered the church with a mosaic floor and Greek inscriptions. One of those inscriptions explains that the church was built in honour of an unnamed "glorious martyr."
The exact date for the church remains unknown, however, a mosaic inscription indicated an expansion of the church during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian during the sixth century.
Various items from the discovery were put on display at an exhibition titled "The Glorious Martyr" this week at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. The site is also known as "The Church of the Glorious Martyr."
"In the Byzantine period, locations traditionally associated with major events of the Old and New Testaments, including sites linked to saints and martyrs, were venerated as holy places. Churches containing martyrs' relics became important destinations for Christian pilgrims," the museum stated.
"With its ornate design and prominent situation near the main road to Jerusalem, the highlight of a pilgrim's journey, the Church of the Glorious Martyr evidently drew many believers hoping to receive blessing within."
The museum also noted that the items discovered at the church included "one of the most complete assemblages of Byzantine glass window panes in Israel. These discoveries, along with the many clay and glass lamps that illuminated the church interior, enrich our understanding of the role of light in Byzantine churches."
Benyamin Storchan, director of the excavation, said that an inscription noting that work was carried out on the church under Emperor Tiberius II Constantine held significance. "Numerous written sources indicate that the empire funded churches in the Land of Israel, but in the archaeological study, very few inscriptions such as the one found in Beit Shemesh are known," said Storchan.