Monday, July 8, 2013

Jerusalem - The Nea (New) Church

Photo by Avi Deror, click on photo to enlarge it

Without question, the most important and largest church in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built by Constantine in 326 AD on the TRADITIONAL site of our Lord’s crucifixion and burial tomb.

But there was another impressive and rather large church in Jerusalem that remains unknown to most pilgrims, the Nea (New) Church, which is in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. The modern, southern wall of Jerusalem was built (1560s) over the remains of the Nea Church.

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The Roman emperor Justinian built it around 550 AD. Many early visitors wrote about the church in their memoirs of Jerusalem. However, one of the best, and perhaps the most important testaments of its existence, is the Madaba floor mosaic (late 500 AD), which depicts the Holy Land during the Byzantine period. Jerusalem is clearly at the center of the map, and it shows the Nea Church close to the Cardo Maximus (Main Street) that ran north/south.

Click on photo to enlarge it

Some remains of the Nea Church and Cardo were unearthed when excavations began just after the 6-Day War in 1967. They were easily identified because of their locations depicted on the Madaba Map. It was a large church measuring about 375 X 180 feet.

A well-preserved water reservoir was discovered along the south side of the church. Some of the church was built over it. Interestingly, a dedicatory inscription was discovered in the reservoir, which reads: "And this is the work which our most pious Emperor Flavius (Justinian) carried out with munificence, under the care and devotion of the most holy Constantine, priest and Hegumen, in the 13th (year of the) indiction"
(Probably 550 AD).

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