Soon it was clear that the site was not just near Magdala; this was Magdala. The dig went on to uncover an ancient marketplace and a separate area of rooms with adjacent water pools, presumably used for producing the salty cured fish that Magdala was famous for; a large villa or public building with mosaics, frescoes and three ritual baths; a fishermen’s neighborhood, scattered with ancient hooks and other equipment; and a section of a first-century harbor. The ancient synagogue was discovered at the precise spot where the architects had planned to erect an ecumenical chapel, to the right of the hotel entrance.Lots more on Magadala, its menorah engraving, and its mosaics is here and links.
The discovery of the ruins meant that the building plans had to be changed to accommodate them, and the restaurant and hotel are still under construction. But the new spirituality center is completed, with a boat-shaped altar that blends with a view of the harbor and the Sea of Galilee. “Jesus used to preach to the crowds from Peter’s boat, so we tried to reproduce that idea here,” said Father Solana, who belongs to the Legionaries of Christ, an order founded in Mexico. “Our plans, with a higher providence, merged very, very strongly.”
The pope is not scheduled to visit Magdala during his three-day trip to the region, which will include stops in Jerusalem, Jordan and Bethlehem. Instead, the tabernacle from the boat altar will be taken to the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem to receive his blessing. Afterward, on May 28, the site will be officially inaugurated as the Magdala archaeological park, and the adjacent spirituality center will be dedicated in the presence of Israeli government representatives and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal.
The ancient synagogue had some unusual features, including an ornately engraved stone block that archaeologists say was probably used as a table for reading the Torah. It is carved with columns and arches, a seven-branched menorah with vessels for wine and oil to each side, a 12-leaf rosette and chariots of fire. The stone appears to be a miniature of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in the year 70, adorned with symbols also meant to commemorate the First Temple.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Magdala in the news
THE SITE OF MAGDALA, redicovered a decade ago, is profiled by the NYT: A Resort in Galilee Rises Where Jesus May Have Taught (Isabel Kershner). Excerpts: