Prison Makes Way for the Holy Land’s Oldest Church

Bible and Archaeology News

Despite the great deal of fanfare surrounding its discovery, the third century C.E. Christian prayer hall discovered at Megiddo looks like anything but an archaeological tourist site. Likely the oldest church ever found in the Holy Land,* it is located under the Megiddo prison, leading the spectacular discovery to be covered up again until the site can be developed properly. Plans have been made to relocate the prison just over a mile to the west, but the construction of a tourist site around the church has not yet begun. An international tender seeking out an investor to construct and manage the tourist site is expected this week, and will serve as a major step in making the site available to the public. Project manager Gad Yaakov expects 500,000 tourists to visit the site in the first year alone, and expects the numbers to rise over the following years. Bids on developing the site for tourists must be submitted by June 5.

The structure featured mosaics with Christian symbols such as fish and a dedicatory inscription “to God Jesus Christ.” Dated to around 230 C.E., the find was considered important enough to Israel President Moshe Katsav that when he visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in November 2005, he took pictures of the newly discovered mosaic floor with him to present to the pontiff.

Prison Makes Way for the Holy Land's Oldest Church

This mosaic from the Megiddo Prison Church is one step closer to the public eye. This week’s expected tender for development bids is a major step in creating what will surely become a major Biblical and archaeological tourist site.


Read more about the tender for development.

* Vassilios Tzaferis, “Inscribed ‘To God Jesus Christ,’” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2007.

Posted in News, Biblical Archaeology Places, Cultural Heritage.

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