Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crusader-Era Monastery Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

From the Jerusalem Post:

The Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that it unearthed a rare 800-year-old lead seal from the Monastery of St. Sabas in Jerusalem.

[…]

The seal shows a bearded bust of a saint wearing a himation, while holding a cross in his right hand and the Gospel in his left. Surrounding it is a Greek inscription naming him “Saint Sabas.”

On the back of the seal there is a longer Greek inscription, reading: “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabas.”

Photo by Clara Amit, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

During the summer of 2012, the Antiquities Authority conducted two archaeological salvage excavations at the Horbat Mizmil antiquities site in Bayit Vagan, which revealed the remains of a farmstead constructed during the Byzantine period (5th-6th centuries CE).

The archeologists said the excavated farmstead may refer to a farming settlement sold to the monastery in 1163–1164.

[…]

St. Sabas, or according to his Syriac name, “Mar Saba,” was one of the most important and influential leaders of the Christian monastic movement developing in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period.

Sabas established several monasteries, but his crowning achievement was the construction of the Monastery of St. Sabas, referred to as the “Great Laura” in the Byzantine period.

The monastery, situated on a cliff overlooking Nahal Kidron, was home to several hundred monks.

“This is the only monastery in the Judean Desert continuously inhabited since its foundation, and even today there are circa 10 Greek monks who reside in the monastery belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church,” the Antiquities Authority said.

The full story is here. The IAA press release is here.

HT: Bill Soper

Mar Saba, Valley of the Kedron, pp1148a

Mar Saba monastery
Image from Picturesque Palestine, volume 1

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