Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said on Wednesday that archaeologists had uncovered a 1,500-year-old church in a neighbourhood west of Jerusalem.
According to the IAA and the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem in a statement, the church, decorated with ornate mosaics and Greek inscriptions, was found in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
The museum will display findings from the excavation in a public exhibition set to open on Wednesday night.
The mosaics depict leaves, fruit, birds, and geometrical elements.
The IAA said that the walls of the church were decorated with colorful frescoes as well as “pillars crowned with impressive capitals, some of which may have been imported”.
Archaeologists, who conducted the excavations over the past three years, were intrigued by an inscription in the courtyard dedicating the church to a “glorious martyr”.
Excavation director Benjamin Storchan said “the martyr’s identity is not known, but the exceptional opulence of the structure and its inscriptions indicate that this person was an important figure.
“Only a few churches in Israel have been discovered with fully intact crypts.
“The crypt served as an underground burial chamber that apparently housed the remains of the martyr,” he added.
According to Storchan, the church covers some 1,500 square metres and includes typical Byzantine architectural elements, such as a narthex, a courtyard and an atrium.
The Ministry of Construction and Housing has invested approximately 7 million shekels (2 million dollars) in this project, as part of the excavations, conservation and development of archaeological parks in the framework of the construction of a new neigbourhood. (dpa/NAN)