Monastery of Martyrius
The Monastery of Martyrius, now located in the center of the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i settlement and city of Ma'ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, was one of the most important centres of monastic life in the Judean Desert
Judean desert
The Judaean Desert is a desert in Israel and the West Bank that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. It stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El, and is marked by terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan...

 during the Byzantine
Byzantine usually refers to the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.Byzantine may also refer to:* A citizen of the Byzantine Empire, or native Greek during the Middle Ages...



When Ma'ale Adumim was built in 1982-1985, the remains of the Monastery of Martyrius (Khirbet Murassas) were discovered on a hill overlooking the road from Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

 to Jerusalem. Martyrius was born in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

 (present-day Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

). After spending some time at the Laura of Euthymius
Laura of Euthymius
The Laura of Euthymius was a laura in Palestine founded by Saint Euthymius the Great in 420.The laura, a cluster of cells for hermits around a church, was located in Adummim on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and was based on the layout of the Pharan lavra, with small cells. Its church was...

 in 457 CE, he lived as a hermit in a nearby cave. Later, he served as a priest at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and became Patriarch of Jerusalem
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is the head bishop of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, ranking fourth of nine Patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Since 2005, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has been Theophilos III...

 (478-486 CE). It is believed that he built the monastery bearing his name at this time.

The xenodocheion (pilgrim hostelry) was a source of considerable income to the sabaite monks of the coenobium.

Archeological findings

The square-shaped compound of the monastery covers an area of 2.5 acres (10,117.2 m²). It is surrounded by walls preserved to a height of two meters. The gate was located in the eastern wall. A round rolling-stone, 2.5 meters in diameter, was found inside the gate, probably for additional protection. Numerous rock-cut cisterns and canals were found for collecting and chanelling rainwater into cisterns.

The monastery was built around a large courtyard and included a church, several chapels, a refectory, a kitchen, a storeroom, a bathhouse, residential quarters and an animal pen. Outside the wall was a pilgrims hostel.

The main church was paved with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns interspersed with pictures of animals. A Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 inscription mentions the abbots Genesius and Iohannes.

On the northern side of the complex is a cave in which several skeletons were found. A Greek inscription cites the names of three priests buried there. It is believed this is the cave where Martyrius lived before joining the church hierarchy in Jerusalem.

The refectory
A refectory is a dining room, especially in monasteries, boarding schools and academic institutions. One of the places the term is most often used today is in graduate seminaries...

 is surrounded by stone benches and divided by two rows of columns which supported a second story. The floor, discovered intact, is covered with mosaics in geometrical designs. The kitchen was also paved with mosaics and contained marble tables. Hundreds of ceramic vessels, cooking pots and wine cups were found there. The hostel provided guests with a chapel, sleeping quarters and a stable.

The monastery was damaged during the Persian invasion in 614 CE and was abandoned after the Arab conquest in the mid-7th century.

The site was excavated by Yitzhak Magen of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel Antiquities Authority
The Israel Antiquities Authority is an independent Israeli governmental authority responsible for enforcing the 1978 Law of Antiquities. The IAA regulates excavation and conservation, and promotes research...


External sources

  • Map showing location of monastery in Ma'ale Adumim (Hebrew)
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