Orthodox America

   Holy Site Uncovered

Archaeologists have uncovered the spot where Christians believe the Holy Virgin rested on her way to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus Christ.  

A large octagonal church built on the site and now being excavated was discovered while contractors were laying a water pipe.  

The fifth-century Byzantine church, with well-preserved mosaic and marble floors, is built around a rock that is known as Kathisma (the seat), in Greek. The rock is believed to have been the Holy Virgin's resting place. The site is midway between the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  

The church was a magnificent edifice and one of the largest of its time. The site was visited by pilgrims for hundreds of years until it was destroyed and deserted.  

In 1992, the edge of the site was discovered during the widening of the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, but archaeologists were permitted to return to excavate only in October of this year. The road was moved to preserve the ruins, but construction in the area nevertheless damaged the site, now covered by an olive grove.

Initially, the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns the land, was hesitant to permit the excavations for fear of relinquishing the valuable site. Now, however, Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem says that the Church is supporting the Israeli dig and will pledge thousands of dollars to make the church once again a popular pilgrimage site.

Based on a news item in the Winnipeg Free Press, Nov. 10, 1997.