Emmaus nel Periodo bizantino (324-637 d.C.)


Durante il periodo bizantino un grande complesso ecclesiastico fu costruito gradualmente sul sito della casa di Clèopa, venerato dai cristiani come il luogo in cui Cristo risorto aveva spezzato il pane. Questo complesso ecclesiastico consisteva in due basiliche e un battistero (il tutto è stato scoperto durante gli scavi archeologici alla fine del XIX-inizi del XX secolo). Emmaus-Nicopolis fu quindi una grande città, un centro regionale e una sede episcopale. Il nome di un vescovo di Nicopoli, Pietro, viene menzionato per la prima volta nell'elenco dei Padri del Concilio di Nicea del 325 d.C.. Il secondo vescovo della città che conosciamo, Rufo, era presente al Concilio di Costantinopoli del 381. Un terzo, Zenobio, firmò un decreto del Sinodo di Gerusalemme nel 536. (vedi: H. Gelzer, ed., Patrum Nicaenorum nomina, Lipsia 1898, p. 123 (vedi qui); M. Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, Paris 1740, t. III, 594, vedi qui).

   

                          
Basilica bizantina di Emmaus (VI-VII secolo, ricostruita dai crociati nel XII secolo)

 

Una mappa a mosaico della Terra Santa, risalente al VI secolo d.C., scoperta nella città di Madaba in Giordania, rappresenta Nicopoli come una grande città, di dimensioni paragonabili a Gerico e Lod (Diospolis). (M. Avi-Yona, The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, p. 64; H. Donner, The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, p. 58)

 

 Emmaus-Nicopolis sulla mappa musiva di Madaba (Giordania, VI sec.)

   

 Un'immagine stilizzata della Basilica di Nicopolis appare anche su un pavimento a mosaico risalente all'VIII secolo, scoperto a Main, vicino a Madaba.



  Molti pellegrini visitavano Emmaus mentre viaggiavano verso Gerusalemme dal porto di Giaffa (Joppa). A quel tempo, Nicopolis era l'unico posto in Terra Santa venerato come la Emmaus del Vangelo, in continuità con la tradizione cristiana che esisteva già in epoca romana. Nicopolis era considerata allo stesso tempo sia la Emmaus menzionata nel 1 Libro dei Maccabei, cap. 3-4 (luogo della battaglia tra gli Ebrei e l'esercito siriano), sia la Emmaus del Vangelo di Luca. Ne abbiamo l’evidenza in questi testi, ad esempio:


Esichio di Gerusalemme, Quaestiones, difficultas 57 (testo dell'inizio del V secolo):

  Domanda: In che modo Giovanni può dire che Cristo è apparso a tutti i suoi discepoli, eccetto Tommaso, la domenica sera  (Giovanni 20,19-24), mentre Luca dice solo che apparve a Pietro, quando Clèopa e il suo compagno tornarono a Gerusalemme la sera dello stesso giorno, dopo aver visto il Signore ad Emmaus (Luca 24,33-34) 
Soluzione: Dopo le sante donne, è a Pietro che il Cristo è apparso, quindi agli Apostoli, secondo quanto dice Paolo: «Apparve a Cefa e quindi ai Dodici» (1 Lettera ai Corinzi 15,5), senza contare Tommaso, che era assente, ma Mattia e Giusto (Atti degli Apostoli 1,22-23).  Inoltre, fu mentre Clèopa e il suo compagno erano in cammino di ritorno da Emmaus che Cristo apparve a Pietro. Quando tornarono da Emmaus e raccontarono agli Apostoli come lo avevano riconosciuto allo spezzare del pane, fu allora che il Cristo apparve a tutti in Sion, come afferma Luca (Luca 24,35-36).  Non dovrebbe sorprendere il fatto che lo stesso giorno siano andati da Gerusalemme a Emmaus e da Emmaus a Gerusalemme. Non è scritto che era sera quando si sono avvicinati di Emmaus, ma che era verso sera  (Luca 24,29)e che il giorno volgeva al declino, come se fosse per esempio l'ora ottava o nona (le 14 o le 15).  Dall’ora settima (13)il sole sembra inclinarsi verso ovest. Per non parlare del fatto che la gioia di annunciare il miracolo li aveva spinti ad accelerare il viaggio e che probabilmente arrivarono molto tardi. In effetti, abbiamo l'abitudine di chiamare "sera"  (“opsias”, vedi Giovanni 20,19) il tempo che si estende fino a notte fonda. Ecco dunque come Cristo apparve a loro e agli altri. (PG XCIII, 1444, vedi qui, traduz. nostra). Il testo di Esichio presuppone una distanza significativa tra Gerusalemme ed Emmaus, che non è facile da coprire due volte nello stesso giorno. Forse i discepoli hanno lasciato Emmaus intorno alle 15 e sono arrivati a Gerusalemme molto tardi (alle 22 o alle 23?). Il loro viaggio verso Gerusalemme è durato quindi dalle sei alle otto ore, il che corrisponde a una distanza di circa trenta chilometri.


 San Cirillo d'Alessandria, Commento al Vangelo di Luca, cap. 24, testo dell'inizio del V secolo, cit. in: J. A. Cramer, Catenae Graecorum Patrum, Oxford 1844, t. 2, p. 172, vedi qui l'originale; v. anche: Vincent e Abel, Emmaus, Paris 1932, p. 411, nota 2:
  «Alzatisi all’istante, tornarono a Gerusalemme… »: cioè nel momento stesso in cui il loro maestro, il Cristo, si rese invisibile ai loro occhi, ripartirono, non vedendolo più. Non fu a quell'ora che trovarono gli Undici, e portarono loro notizie del Signore Gesù, ma fu dopo alcune ore, dopo le ore necessarie a un uomo a piedi per percorrere la distanza di centosessanta stadi, durante le quali il Maestro apparve anche a Simone, «ed essi narravano ciò che era accaduto lungo la via… » (Traduz. nostra)


  San Girolamo, Commento al Libro di Daniele, cap. 8, versetto 14 (testo del 407 d.C. circa): 
E lui gli rispose: «Fino a sera e al mattino, fino a duemilatrecento giorni; poi il santuario sarà purificato». 

Se leggiamo i libri dei Maccabei e la Storia di (Flavio) Giuseppe, vi troveremo che nell'anno centoquarantatre dopo Seleuco, che per primo regnò in Siria dopo la morte di Alessandro, Antioco entrò a Gerusalemme, e dopo aver causato una devastazione generale, ritornò nel terzo anno e mise la statua di Giove nel Tempio. Fino al tempo di Giuda Maccabeo, cioè fino all'anno centootto, Gerusalemme fu in stato di devastazione per un periodo di sei anni, e per tre (di questi) anni il Tempio restò contaminato, per un totale di duemilatrecento trecento giorni più tre mesi. Alla fine di questo periodo, il Tempio fu purificato... La maggior parte dei commentatori riferiscono questo passaggio all'Anticristo, e considerano che ciò che è accaduto sotto Antioco era solo una previsione di ciò che accadrà sotto l'Anticristo. Quanto alla frase «Il santuario sarà purificato», essa si riferisce al tempo di Giuda Maccabeo, che era del villaggio di Modiin, e che, con l'aiuto dei suoi fratelli e parenti e di molti Ebrei (sconfisse?) i generali di Antioco, non lontano da Emmaus, che ora si chiama Nicopoli  (PL XXV, 537, vedi qui, traduz. nostra).


Ibidem, cap. 11, versetti 44-45:

  «Ma notizie dall’Oriente e dal Settentrione lo spaventeranno: egli partirà con grande furore per distruggere e uccidere una moltitudine. Pianterà la tenda a Apedno, fra i mari, verso la gloriosa e santa montagna; poi giungerà alla fine e nessuno verrà in suo aiuto».

Quelli della nostra opinione ... spiegano il capitolo finale di questa visione come riferito all'Anticristo, e affermano che durante la sua guerra contro gli Egiziani, i Libici e gli Etiopi, durante la quale deve spezzare tre delle dieci corna, imparerà che la guerra è stata iniziata contro di lui nelle regioni settentrionali e orientali. Poi verrà con un grande esercito per schiacciare e uccidere molte persone, e per piantare la sua tenda ad Apedno, vicino a Nicopoli, che una volta si chiamava Emmaus, all'inizio della regione montuosa della provincia della Giudea. Infine lascerà questo luogo per andare al Monte degli Ulivi e salire nella regione di Gerusalemme, e questo è ciò che la Scrittura significa qui: «Ed egli avrà piantato la sua tenda ... all'inizio della regione montuosa tra i due mari». Questi mari sono certamente quello che oggi si chiama Mar Morto ad est, e il Grande Mare, sulle cui rive si trovano Cesarea, Joppa, Ascalon e Gaza. Poi deve salire in cima alla regione montuosa, cioè sulla cima del Monte degli Ulivi, che è chiamato famoso, naturalmente, perché da esso il nostro Signore e Salvatore è salito al Padre. E nessuno potrà aiutare l'Anticristo quando il Signore riverserà su di lui il suo furore.  (PL XXV, 574, vedi qui, traduz. nostra) 

 

  The original text of the Vulgate,  St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible into the Latin language, had the distance of 160 stadia between Jerusalem and Emmaus in Luke 24:13. The testimony to this is found in the best and most ancient manuscripts of the Vulgate: F, O *, Y, EP, G. 

  St. Jerome



 



 

Tthe first traveller known to mention his visit to Nicopolis in the Byzantine period, is the Anonymous pilgrim of Bordeaux of 333 AD:
From Jerusalem as follows:  City of Nicopolis - miles XXII.
City of Lydda - miles X.
Change at Antipatris - miles X.
Change at Betthar - miles X.
City of Caesarea - miles XVI...
Through Nicopolis to Caesarea – miles LXXIII
(The Library of the Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, London 1885-97, p.28; see the original Latin text here
  The distances indicated by the pilgrim of Bordeaux require corrections: the total distance from Jerusalem to Caesarea - 73 miles – does not correspond to the sum of the specified interurban distances: 68 miles.  Vincent and Abel  (Vincent & Abel, op. cit., p. 300-301) propose the following corrections: from Jerusalem to Nicopolis - XX miles, from Nicopolis to Lydda - XII miles, from Betthar to Caesarea - XXI mile, which gives a total amount of  73 miles. The distance of 20 miles between Jerusalem and Nicopolis corresponds to 160 stadia (about 30 km). 



A souvenir brought from Emmaus by a Byzantine  pilgrim:
a token made of earth from the Holy place,
bearing the image of the Jesus' apparition to the two disciples
(discovered in Samaria, today in Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

A miraculous spring of water was venerated at Emmaus, where, according to a tradition, Jesus had washed his feet during his earthly life. This spring was filled up around 362 AD on the orders of the Emperor Julian the Apostate. The spring was later reopened and mentioned by pilgrims in their accounts over the centuries:

  Julian the Apostate

  At Nicopolis in Palestine, previously called Emmaus, there is a spring which provides cures for all kinds of diseases for both men and beasts. For they say that the Lord our God Jesus Christ washed his feet in it after a journey. That man (the emperor Julian) ordered it to be covered with earth. (St. Theophanes the Confessor, Chronographia, 361\362 AD, text written in 9th century AD, PG CVIII, 160, see here).  

  There is a city now called Nicopolis, in Palestine, which was formerly only a village, and which was mentioned by the divine book of the Gospel under the name of Emmaus… Just beyond the city where three roads meet, is the spot where Christ, after His resurrection, said farewell to Cleopas and his companion, as if he were going to another village; and here is a healing fountain in which men and other living creatures afflicted with different diseases wash away their sufferings; for it is said that when Christ together with His disciples came from a journey to this fountain, they bathed their feet therein, and, from that time the water became a cure for disorders. (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, ch. 21, written in  439 AD, PG LXVII, 1280, see here). 



  Very important is the testimony of St. Jerome himself, who visited Emmaus-Nicopolis in 386 AD with Paula on the road from Europe to Jerusalem: 
 (Paula) arrived next at Antipatris, a small town half in ruins, named by Herod after his father Antipater, and at Lydda, now Diospolis, a place made famous by the resurrection of Dorcas and the restoration to health of Eneas. Not far from this are Arimathaea, the village of Joseph who buried the Lord, and Nob, once a city of priests but now the tomb in which their slain bodies rest. Joppa too is hard by, the port of Jonah's flight; which also - if I may introduce a poetic fable - saw Andromeda bound to the rock. Again resuming her journey, she came to Nicopolis, once called Emmaus, where the Lord became known in the breaking of bread; an action by which He dedicated the house of Cleopas as a church. Starting thence she made her way up lower and higher Beth-Horon, cities founded by Solomon but subsequently destroyed by several devastating wars; seeing on her right Ayalon and Gibeon where Joshua the son of Nun while fighting against the five kings gave commandments to the sun and moon… (Letter 108 to Eustochium, 8, the text of 404 AD, PL XXII, 833, translation is ours, see the original text here).

 

The testimony of St. Jerome confirms once again the information about the location of Emmaus: between Lydda (today’s Lod) and Beth-Horon, about 30 km (19 miles) away from Jerusalem. We can also deduce from this text that the first Christian cult at Emmaus was celebrated in the house of Cleopas upon which the Basilica was later erected.


The house of Cleopas, venerated at Emmaus, was also considered to be the place of his martyrdom. We find a mention of this in De situ Terrae Sanctae, by the archdeacon Theodosius (written ca. 539 AD, ch. 139):

From Jerusalem it is nine miles to Shilo (Kiryat Yearim), where was the ark of the covenant of the Lord. From Shilo to Emmaus, which is now called Nicopolis it is nine miles. In this Emmaus Saint Cleopas 'knew the Lord in the breaking of the bread', and there too he suffered martyrdom. From Emmaus to Diospolis it is twelve miles…  (Theodosius, De situ Terrae Sanctae, 139, Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, London, 1897, p.91, see the original text here).

  We receive similar information from the 9th c. Archbishop of Vienne in Lotharingia Ado, who compiled a Martyrology based upon ancient traditions and who places the memory of St. Cleopas on September 25: 
September 25, Nativity (Anniversary of Martyrdom) of Cleopas, one of the 70 disciples of Christ. The Lord appeared to him after his Resurrection while he was walking with another disciple towards the village of Emmaus, which is called Nicopolis nowadays. According to tradition, in the same town and in the same house, where Cleopas had received the Lord as a pilgrim at his table, he was killed by Jews for his confession of Him whom he had recognized at the breaking of the bread. There also he is buried in glorious memory.  (PL CXXIII, 193, see here) .

  St. Cleopas is mentioned as a martyr also in the list of the 70 disciples of Christ composed by Jacob Bar-Salibi, and transmitted by Michael the Syrian:
Cleopas preached in Loud (Lydda) and was killed (Michael the Syrian, Chronicle, written in 1195 AD; Vincent & Abel, op. cit., p. 348) 
The relics of St. Cleopas were most likely kept at Emmaus for a period of time. Ca. 570 A.D., the Anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza mentions their location upon the Mount of Olives. The relics were probably transferred there for safe keeping in the context of the Samaritan revolt of 529. (see below).




Starting with the 4th century AD we witness the development of monasticism in the Holy Land, including the area of Emmaus. A famous monk called Abba Gelasios lived here in the middle of the 5th century::

 A cell surrounded by a plot of land had been left to Abba Gelasios by an old man, also a monk, who had his dwelling near Nicopolis. Now a peasant farmer under Batacos, who was then living at Nicopolis in Palestine, went to find Batacos, asking to receive the plot of land, because, according to the law, it ought to return to him. Batacos was a violent man and he tried to take the field from Abba Gelasios by force. But our Abba Gelasios, not wishing that a monastic cell should be ceded to a secular, would not give up the land. Batacos, noticing that Abba Gelasios' beasts of burden were carrying olives from the field that had been left to him, turned them by force from their course and took the olives for himself; scarcely did he return the animals with their drivers, having caused them to suffer outrages. The blessed old man did not reclaim the fruit, but he did not cede possession of the land for the reason we have given above. Furious with him, Batacos, who had other matters to deal with also (for he loved lawsuits), betook himself to Constantinople, making the journey on foot. When he came near to Antioch, where Saint Symeon's fame was shining with great brilliance, he heard tell of him (he was indeed an eminent man) and, as a Christian, he desired to see the saint. Blessed Symeon, from the top of his column, saw him as soon as he entered the monastery and asked him, 'Where do you come from and where are you going?' He replied, 'I am from Palestine and I am going to Constantinople.'  He continued, 'and for what reasons?' Batacos replied, 'About many matters. I hope, thanks to the prayers of your holiness, to return and bow before your holy footprints.' Then Saint Symeon said to him, 'Wretch, you don't want to say that you are going to act against the man of God. But your way is not favourable for you and you will not see your house again. If you will follow my advice, leave these parts and hurry to him and ask his pardon, if you are still alive when you reach that place.' Immediately Batacos was seized with fever. His fellow  travelers put him into a litter and he hastened, according to the word of Saint Symeon, to reach Abba Gelasios and to ask his pardon. But when he came to Beirut, he died without seeing his house again, according to the old man's prophecy. It is his son, also called Batacos, who has told this to many trustworthy men, at the same time as he gave the account of his father's death. ( The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Apophthegmata Patrum) , ed. Mowbray, London, 1975, text written in the 5th c., events of  ca. 450 AD, see the Greek text here)


  St. Sabbas, one of the Fathers of the monasticism in the Holy Land, founded a monastery at Nicopolis in 508: 

  On returning to his own Laura, the sanctified Sabas found that the forty mentioned above, those prone to share in evil, had suborned others and become sixty. He was distressed and wept copiously at the damage inflicted on his community, and was amazed how envious and prompt is wickedness in effortlessly drawing the lax to itself. At first he opposed patience to their irascibility and love to their hate, controlling his speech with spiritual understanding and integrity. Subsequently, however, when he saw them grow bold in wickedness and resort to shamelessness, not bearing to walk in the humble path of Christ but alleging excuses for their sins and inventing reasons to justify their passions, he left scope for divine anger and withdrew to the region of Nicopolis, where he lived as a solitary for many days under a single carob-tree, living on carobs. On learning this, the bailiff of the place came out to see him and built him a cell in this very place; this cell, by the help and favour of Christ, became in a short time a coenobium.  (Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of St. Sabas, ch. 35, text of ca. 558 AD; Cyril of Scythopolis, The lives of the Monks of Palestine, Michigan, 1991, p.p. 129 - 130, see the original Greek text here)

 



In 529 A.D., the Samaritan revolt started in Palestine. Harassed by Byzantium, Samaritans attacked Christians and destroyed many churches in the Holy Land. There is no direct evidence about the events that occurred at Emmaus during the uprising, but according to the archaeological data, the church complex built here during the 4th-5th cent., was rebuilt during the 6th, probably because of the destruction during the Samaritan revolt.


  Following texts bear evidence to the Samaritan presence at Emmaus during the Byzantine period: 
Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Avoda Zara, 5, 4, (events of the 4th c. AD): 
Rabbi Aha went to Emmaus  (מאוס) and ate their pastries (Samaritans’)

(Vincent & Abel, op. cit., p. 408  , עורך ש' קליין, ירושלים, תרצ''ט,"ספר הישוב", v. 1, p. 6, see the original text here)

  

  John Moschos, The Spiritual Meadow, 165 (text of 619 AD, events of the late 6th century):
The same friend of Christ told us about a robber named Cyriacos whose thefts were committed in the area around Emmaus, known also as Nicopolis. He became so cruel and inhuman that they called him “the wolf”. There were other robbers with him; not only Christians, but also Jews and Samaritans too. One day—it was in holy week—some people from an estate in the region of Nicopolis came up to the Holy City to baptize their children. When the children had been baptized, they were returning to their own estate to celebrate Easter Day there. But they were confronted by the robbers on the way (the chieftain was not present). The men took to their heels. Casting aside the newly baptized children, the Jews and Samaritans seized the women and took possession of them. As the men fled, they ran into the chieftain of the robbers who asked them: 'Why are you running away?' They told him what had happened to them. He took them with him and went in search of his companions; he found the children stretched out on the ground. When he discovered who had perpetrated this atrocity, he beheaded the guilty ones. He had the men take up the little ones (because the women were unwilling to do so on account of their defilement by the robbers) and then he conducted them all safely to their own estate. A little while later, the robber-chief was arrested. For ten years he languished in jail and no ruler had him executed; finally, he was released. He would say over and over again: 'It is thanks to those babes that I escaped bitter death. I used to see them in my dreams, saying to me: “Do not be afraid; we are putting forward the case for your defense”'. We met this man, I and Abba John, priest of the Laura of the Eunuchs. He told us all this—and we glorified God.
 (PG LXXXVII, 3032, see here; John Moschos, The Spiritual Meadow,
Michigan, p.135-136; 
"ספר הישוב", op. cit. p.6).
  

A few miles northwest of Emmaus the ruins of a Samaritan synagogue have been discovered in the village of Shaalbim.
                                                                                                                                       Mosaics from the Samaritan synagogue of  Shaalbim in the region of Emmaus

                                                                                                                                       (preserved at the Good Samaritan site near Ma'ale Adummim) 




  Several stone-carved Samaritan inscriptions found in the vicinity also testify to the presence of Samaritans at Emmaus. 

One of them, engraved on the side of an ionic column capital, was found in the ruins of the southern Byzantine basilica. On one side of this capital, there is a Greek inscription which reads: Eis ho theos, meaning: One God, while on the other side there is a Samaritan inscription in Hebrew which reads: Barukh shemo le-olam- Let his Name be blessed forever (today in the collection of the Carmelite monastery in Bethlehem). The presence of a stone with the Samaritan inscription in the Christian Basilica can be due to the fact that after the suppression of their revolt, the Samaritans were obliged to restore the Basilica using stones from their own buildings. For more about this inscription, see: Clermont-Ganneau,  1er rapport, 3e série, v. IX, p. 292ff, and v. XI, p. 251; Pilcher, The Date of the Siloam Inscription, PSBA, 1897, p. 167ff, see here; Conder, Kitchener, Survey of Western Palestine, v. III, pp. 64-65, London. 1883, see here; Vincent & Abel, op. cit., pp. 264-266, drawing XXV; Sukenik, PEF Quarterly Statement, 1931, p. 22, footnote 2, see heresee also: Ottoman period for the history of the discovery of the stone. 

 





 In the region of Emmaus two more stones were found containing Samaritan inscriptions from the Pentateuch: Genesis 24:31; Exodus, 12:33; 15:13, Deutoronomy, 33:26 (The collection of the Betharram Fathers, Bethlehem, about these inscriptions see: Lagrange, La Terre Sainte, 15.11.1890 and 15.03.1891; Lagrange, Inscription samaritaine d'Amwas, RB 1893, p. 115 and following (see here), M. De Vogüe, Nouvelle inscription samaritaine d'Amwas, RB 1896, p. 433 and following (see here); J.-B. Frey, Corpus Inscriptionum Judaicarum, v. II, Roma, 1952, № 1185). 


 A Samaritan inscription from Emmaus: 

 יהוה גיבור במלחמה יהוה\ שמו יהוה נחיתו\ בא ברוך יהוה\ אין כאל ישורון










The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Ex. 15:3)
LORD, you lead him (Ex. 15:13a)
Come, you who are blessed by the LORD (Gn. 24:31a)
There is none like the God of Yeshurun (Dt. 33: 26)




 


  From an archaeological point of view, Emmaus’ Byzantine period is represented by the ruins of two Basilicas. In the northern Basilica, the baptistery with water reservoir is well-preserved. The Eastern (back) wall of the southern Basilica with its three apses was found almost completely intact.

                                                                                                       Byzantine baptistery at Emmaus →


Plan of the archaeological site of Emmaus:

1. Three apsidal Byzantine Basilica (5-7th c. AD)

rebuilt on smaller scale by Crusaders (12th c. AD)

2.  Byzantine  inscription in Greek

3. Southern apse with reliquary niche (5th c. AD)

4. Byzantine baptistery chapel (5-6th c. AD)

5. Ruins of the North Basilica (5-6th c. AD)

6. Remains of mosaics (5th c. AD)

7. Quarry of stones

8. Ancient tombs area

9. Remains of mosaics (5th c. AD)

10. Bishops's house of Nicopolis (5th c. AD)

  

  

  In both Basilicas, colourful mosaics with geometrical patterns and inscriptions in Greek with names of benefactors were found. In the northern nave of the southern Basilica, a "Nile" style mosaic portraying birds, animals and flowers was discovered. 


Byzantine mosaics from Emmaus-Nicopolis





    In the collection of the Latrun Monastery and on the territory of the nearby Canada park, we can see beautifully carved cornices and capitals which belonged to the southern Basilica. Two large fragments of columns and two Ionic capitals made of blue marble which belonged to the church complex have also survived.



Architectural elements from the Byzantine basilicas of Emmaus-Nicopolis ‎‎(Latrun Monastery collection)‎‎



Both Basilicas, dating from the 6-7th centuries AD, were built on the site of an older church complex (4-5th c. AD), the northern part containing what was probably the house of Cleopas while the southern had the miraculous spring of water, which was mentioned above. Inside the Southern basilica several stones arranged in a semicircle were found. These stones probably served as the foundation for the apse of the oldest church building (3rd c. AD?). Small baths found nearby probably belonged to the same building. These baths could have served pilgrims for bathing in the waters of the miraculous spring (K.-H. Fleckenstein, M. Louhivuori, R. Riesner, Emmaus in Judäa, Brunnen Verlag, Basel, 2003, pp.263-266). Items dating from the Byzantine period such as coins, jewelry (rings, bracelets, ornaments), ceramic and glass, ceramic oil lamps, etc. were all found in the ground and grottos around the church compound of Emmaus.

                                    


Byzantine coins found in Emmaus-Nicopolis


Byzantine ceramics from Emmaus-Nicopolis


Byzantine jewellery from Emmaus-Nicopolis


 



          

  Special attention can be paid to the marble slab discovered in a field west of the church complex, bearing an inscription in Greek: In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, beautiful the city of Christians is (today in the museum of  St. Anne’s Monastery in Jerusalem, see: Germer-Durand, RB 1894, p.255 (see here); L.-H. Vincent, Inscription grecque chrétienne d'Amwas, RB 1913, p.100-101 (see here)). 




   


 A Byzantine period tombstone with a Hebrew inscription: Mekom menuhato shel Elazar ben Yehoshua. Shalom me-Emmaus (אמאוס ), shalomThe resting place of Elazar, the son of Joshua, peace from Emmaus, peace was discovered nearby during the excavations of the late 19th c. (Currently displayed in Jaffa Archaeological Museum).

  

  



(A detailed analysis of archaeological finds in Emmaus can be found in the following sources: Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine during years 1873-74, p.483-493;  L.-H. Vincent & F.-M. Abel, op. cit., p.p. 19-274; Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, v. 12, article Nicopolis, Paris, 1935; The New Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, E. Stern ed., Jerusalem, 1993, article Emmaus, v. 2, p.p. 385-389; V. Michel, Le complexe ecclésiastique d'Emmaüs-Nicopolis, Paris, Sorbonne, 1996-1997 (thesis); K.-H. Fleckenstein, M. Louhivuori, R. Riesner, Emmaus in Judäa, Basel, 2003, p.212-310; K.-H. & Louisa Fleckenstein, Emmaüs-Nicopolis Ausgrabungen 2001-2005, Novum publishing, 2010).




 It is unknown what happened in Nicopolis during the Persian invasion of Palestine in 614 A.D. Perhaps, the Southern Byzantine basilica was destroyed at that time. We find a distant echo to these events in Rabbi Isaac Helo’s account of his visit to Emmaus in 1334:

There is an ancient sepulchral monument at Emmaus, it is said to be the tomb of a Christian lord, who fell in the war of the king of Persia.

(I. D. Eisenstein אוצר מסעות, A Compendium of Jewish Travels, NY 1926, p. 74Les chemins de Jérusalem, Bruxelles, 1847, E. Carmoly, trad., p. 245, see the Hebrew text here). 


  The Byzantine period in the history of the Holy Land and of Emmaus ends with the arrival of the Arab conquerors in 637 A.D. 


PREVIOUS      NEXT