The Monastery of Martyrius, now located in the center of the Israeli city of Ma'ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, was one of the most important centres of monastic life in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period.[1][2]


Good Samaritan museum 018-1

Gravestone of Pauls, head of the Monastery

Good Samaritan museum 016-1

marble table from the monastery

When Ma'ale Adumim was built in 1982-1985, the remains of the Monastery of Martyrius (Khirbet Murassas)[3] were discovered on a hill overlooking the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Martyrius was born in Cappadocia (present-day Turkey). After spending some time at the Laura of Euthymius 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 (478-486 CE). It is believed that he built the monastery bearing his name at this time.[4]

The xenodocheion (pilgrim hostelry) was a source of considerable income to the sabaite monks of the coenobium.[5]

Archeological findings

The square-shaped compound of the monastery covers an area of 2.5 acres. 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.[4]

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.[4]

The main church was paved with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns interspersed with pictures of animals. A Greek inscription mentions the abbots Genesius and Iohannes.[4]

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.[4]

The refectory 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.[4]

The monastery was damaged during the Persian invasion in 614 CE and was abandoned after the Arab conquest in the mid-7th century.[4]

The site was excavated by Yitzhak Magen of the Israel Antiquities Authority.[4]


  1. Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0199236666 p 335
  2. Jericho Municipality Official Website Historical site
  3. The Monastery of Martyrius at Ma'ale Adummim: A Guide, Yitzhak Magen, Israel Antiquities Authority, 1993
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Jewish virtual library The Monastery of Martyrius
  5. Patrich Joseph (2001) The Sabaite Heritage in the Orthodox Church from the Fifth Century to the Present Peeters Publishers, ISBN 9042909765 p 319

External sources

Coordinates: 31°46′45.05″N 35°18′01.14″E / 31.7791806°N 35.3003167°E / 31.7791806; 35.3003167

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