One such exquisite [Byzantine-era] floor was discovered in 1894; a family digging foundations for a house near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate was astounded to discover a glorious mosaic floor beneath the rubble. It turned out to be part of a fifth- or sixth-century Armenian church, and further excavations revealed that below one corner of the mosaic lay the remains of an Armenian unit attached to the Roman army (or, perhaps, martyrs who died for their faith).For some PaleoJudaiac posts on ancient Armenian literature and archaeology see here and links, plus here, here, and here. Some ancient Jewish literature, notably some of the works of Philo of Alexandria, survive only in Armenian translation.
This year, the mosaic was meticulously transferred into the Armenian Convent, located in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, and is now the focus of the convent’s brand-new Edward and Helen Mardigian Armenian Museum, which opened this past week. The mosaic covers almost the entire first floor of the magnificent building, constructed in 1853 as Jerusalem’s Armenian Theological Seminary. Its creator was Turkish-Armenian artist Sarkis Balyan, a member of a distinguished family of artists and architects. In fact his father, Garabet Balyan, designed the sumptuous Dolmabahçe Palace, the largest of its kind in Turkey.
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