Début des fouilles du plus ancien monastère palestinien

Situé dans la bande de Gaza, le monastère Saint Hilarion est l’un des plus grands du Moyen-Orient, construit après l’arrivée des premiers moines en Palestine. Le site vient d’obtenir les fonds nécessaires à sa restauration prévue sur deux ans. (article en anglais)

The Palestinian government and international organizations started a major excavation to restore St. Hilarion Monastery, locally known as Tell Umm Amer, in the central Gaza Strip, Palestine’s oldest and largest Christian monument.

The project, which started in January and is expected to take up to two years, is supervised and funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund. Partners of the project include French nongovernmental organization Premiere Urgence Internationale (PUI) as well as the University of Palestine, the Islamic University of Gaza and the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem. The project also includes the restoration of a Byzantine church in Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip.

The monastery’s founding text, which was discovered in excavations supervised by the Palestinian Authority in 1994, reveals that the St. Hilarion Monastery was the first Christian landmark in Palestine. It dates back to Hilarion, the founder of Palestinian monasticism. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Hilarion was born in Tabatha, south of Gaza, in A.D. 291. He studied in Alexandria, where he became a Christian. He was a disciple of St. Anthony of Egypt and lived with him in the desert. Returning to Palestine in A.D. 306, he started a solitary life by erecting a hut in the wilderness some 7 miles from Maiuma, near Gaza, on the road to Egypt. After establishing the first Palestinian monastery in 329, which grew fast, Hilarion, seeking solitude, migrated first to Thebes, Egypt, and eventually settled and died in Cyprus.

Hiam al-Bitar, an archaeologist at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Al-Monitor, “The monastery was built in Nuseirat, central Gaza, which was a deserted area over the hills back then. It included a church and a baptismal font.”

Today, all that remains are the stone walls, a few Corinthian columns and parts of a mosaic floor. “The church in the monastery was renovated three times during the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries as well as in the early seventh century under the Umayyad Caliphate,” Bitar said. “We can see all these renovations in the three mosaic floors, built on top of each other, spreading over an area of over 8 acres. The baptismal font is in the shape of a cross, and the churchyard is paved with marble. There are over 120 rooms to accommodate deacons and priests as well as visitors, a kitchen, a dining hall, a space to grind wheat and press grapes as well as a water fountain and fish spawning grounds.”

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Suite de l’article sur : al-Monitor.com

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