As reported by Haaretz, archaeologists have uncovered what appears to be a major Byzantine-era monastery during pre-construction excavations at Beit Shemesh, Israel.
In an exciting development, the excavation includes “extraordinary mosaics” covering the floors of the church. These mosaics include some figures and motifs that seem to be very unique to the area.
Archaeologists said they found a major early Christian church, based on the discovery of extraordinary mosaics, crucifixes and iconic Christian architecture at a site in the central Israeli town of Beit Shemesh.
Based on the ceramic finds and coinage, the church was probably built in the 4th century C.E., and survived – even expanding, it seems, into a whole monastery complex – for about 300 years, through to the 7th century.
The monastery was used for 300 years, but apparently abandoned in the 7th century. Almost certainly its decline was directly due to the Muslim conquest of the area, roughly contemporaneous with its decline. However, it is suggested that the decline was not due to persecution per se by the Islamic conquerors, but rather by the monastery’s removal from the Byzantine sphere of economic influence and – critically – the financial support of the empire.