The 52-foot-long church includes a side chapel that is 21 feet long and 11 feet wide. The 52-foot-long church includes a side chapel that is 21 feet long and 11 feet wide. The 52-foot-long church includes a side chapel that is 21 feet long and 11 feet wide. (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

1,500-year-old church discovered

The building dates back to the Byzantine era.

Archaeological excavations along Highway One in Israel have uncovered a 1,500-year-old church, part of an ancient roadside station for travelers along the route stretching from Jerusalem to the coastal plain.

The ancient Byzantine church dating from 1,500 years ago was part of an ancient road station frequented by travelers between Jerusalem and the coastal plain.The ancient Byzantine church dating from 1,500 years ago was part of an ancient road station frequented by travelers between Jerusalem and the coastal plain. (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities involved in the discovery said the church stems from when the Byzantine Empire ruled over the area. The station ceased to be used at the end of Empire's rule in the 7th century, although the road has been in use ever since.

The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. At the time of its rule, Eastern Orthodox Christianity was the official religion. Today, more than 100,000 Israelis are Eastern Orthodox.

The 52-foot-long church discovered included a side chapel 21 feet long and 11 feet wide. Features of the chapel include a white-tiled mosaic floor and a baptismal font in the form of a four-leafed clover, which was found in the chapel's corner.

Annette Nagar, the director of the excavation, shows an old candle as she stands next to a baptismal font.Annette Nagar, the director of the excavation, shows an old candle as she stands next to a baptismal font. (Photo: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Fragments of red-colored plaster indicate that the church walls had frescoes. Rooms were also found near the church, and due to the presence of pottery tiles, it is believed they were probably used as dwelling quarters and for storage.

Oil lamps, coins, glass vessels, marble fragments and mother-of-pearl shells were also found, which would indicate the station was in frequent use.

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