JABALIYA, Gaza Strip — The remains of a fifth-century Byzantine church were unveiled in Gaza on Monday following a three-year restoration project, with the Strip’s rulers, the Hamas terror group, touting an embrace of their “Christian brothers.”
The remains of a church and monastery were first discovered in Jabaliya, a city in northern Gaza, in 1997 over an area spanning roughly 800 square meters (957 square yards).
The church floor is adorned with what Hamas officials described as “rare” mosaics, including depictions of animals, hunting scenes and palm trees.
Visitors can now see the mosaics from newly-built elevated wooden walkways.
Gaza’s tourism ministry said the church’s original walls were adorned with religious texts written in ancient Greek dating from the era of Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled Byzantium from the year 408 to 450.
At a ceremony marking the site’s reopening, the most senior Christian cleric in Gaza, Archbishop Alexios of Tiberias, recalled Christianity’s long history in the coastal territory, noting that “monasticism began in the Gaza strip in the year 280.”
Byzantine church of Jabaliya (Al Mukheitim)
In the late 1990s, during the paving of Salah al-Din Regional Street in the Gaza Strip, the remains of the Byzantine Church, which dates back to 444 AD, were discovered.
The building stood in an ancient cemetery at the outskirts of Gaza on the road to Jerusalem. A wealthy family had established a sanctuary in memory of its deceased.
The church was built following the ancient Basilica architecture consisting of three naves and communicating with a chapel where the believers came to offer oil and garden goods for the family in charge of the shrine.
A large baptistery with four rooms indicates the high religious importance of the site for pilgrims. The three buildings (churches, the chapel and the baptistery) are still paved with 400 m² of high-quality colourful mosaics.
The archaeological remains reveal great economic prosperity in Gaza Strip in the 6th century.
With the seventeen scripts in Old Greek inscribed on the mosaic pavements, the Byzantine Church in Jabaliya is considered one of the principal churches in the Levant,
Enjoy a virtual tour of these splendid sites by watching the 360-degree video below.
READ MORE: Macedonia’s must see archaeological site.