GPS coordinates: 33.0171, 35.17271
Coordinates are only approximate
At Kh. el-Shubeika a village was excavated, as well as part of a church with adjoining domestic quarters on its northern and eastern sides. Only a section of the northern aisle, of the bema and of the nave was uncovered, since part of the church had been destroyed by a modern road; nothing is known of buildings that may have existed to the south and west of the basilica. Its proximity to the village houses suggested to the excavators that it was a village church; this is also borne out by the burial excavated across the modern road, 15 m north of the church, which was full of bones of men, women and children.
It was not possible to verify the exact dimensions of the church but it was assumed by the excavator that they were at least 15 x 15 m. Only a narrow part of the central apse, the bema and the nave were uncovered. In the final stage, the bema was expanded more than 1 m. into the nave.
The church had five distinct construction phases, during which the bema was enlarged twice, architectural elements were reused and parts of the mosaic pavement were repaired or replaced. Three Greek dedicatory inscriptions were discovered on the mosaic floor.
Syon, “Excavations at Khirbet El-Shubeika 1991, 1993: The Church (in Hebrew),” *186.
The earliest inscription mentions two deacons. In the second phase repairs were carried out in the pavement of the northern aisle and an inscription was inserted in the repaired section. It reads: “Under our metropolitan Anastasius and Procopius abbot (hegoumenos) all the work of St. Sergius was done; the mosaic was laid in the year 6293 of the creation.” The date corresponds to 785/6 if the date was reckoned according to the Byzantine era, 801/2 according to the Alexandrian era. Changes in the bema carried out in the fourth phase were marked by a third inscription (No. 1668), simply the names of a deacon and a woman. The inscription mentioning the hegoumenos induced the excavators to conclude that “the church was that of a monastery, that eventually functioned also as a village church when the village grew and surrounded it” (Syon 2003:81). It must be stressed, however, that there is no evidence whatsoever that the church belonged to a monastery in its early stage. The dated inscription is not a “foundation inscription,” as incorrectly stated by Ashkenazi and Aviam (2012:274), who saw in this find a confirmation not only of their identification of the remains as a monastery, but also of all their criteria for identifying rural monasteries.
Leah Di Segni, “On the Contribution of Epigraphy to the Identification of Monastic Foundations.,” in Arise, Walk through the Land : Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld, ed. Jospeh Patrich, Orit Peleg-Barkat, and Erez Ben-Yosef (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2016), 188.
What we learn from a combination of the archaeological data and the inscriptions is that a village church, probably built in the sixth century. The settlement was apparently abandoned towards the end of the seventh century CE, clearly after the Arab occupation in 640 CE. The architectural evidence suggests that the site was soon reoccupied, and that the inhabitants made substantial changes in the buildings and the street. The continuity displayed in the pottery assemblages of the two strata suggests that the occupational gap between them was short. The church was significantly renovated, an event commemorated by the dedicatory inscription dated 785/6 CE. Four more architectural alterations were made in the church during this period.
Thus, by the end of the eighth or the early ninth century the church managed by an abbot, presumably the head of a small team of monks. The church, however, continued to serve the lay community, as is indicated not so much by its location in relation to the village, which obviously could not be changed, as by the mention of the ecclesiastical authority under which the church functioned, Metropolitan Anastasius of Tyre, as well as by the woman’s name inscribed in the pavement of the fourth phase.
The Commemoratorium de casis Dei, a document almost precisely contemporary with the dated inscription of Kh. el-Shubeika, reports on the number of clergy and monks in the churches and monasteries of the Holy Land, and we learn that in some churches (ecclesiae, distinguished from monasteria) in Galilee – one in Nazareth, another in Cana, both important pilgrimage places – there were no priests but only monks, twelve in Nazareth and the number lost in the more remote Cana. Evidently, by that time there was a lack of secular clergy and monks had to take the place of priests in order to continue the cult in surviving churches. No wonder, therefore, that the church of a humble village like Shubeika had to be served by monks.
Does this make it into a monastic church? Does it mean that there was a monastery there? The Commemoratorium, which lists many monasteria, mentions no such institution besides the ecclesiae held by monks in Nazareth and Cana. Those monks may well have lived in the village, like the spoudaioi of old, especially since – unlike the members of the renowned monasteries in and near Jerusalem – they were surely local men.
Leah Di Segni, “On the Contribution of Epigraphy to the Identification of Monastic Foundations.,” 188.
Evidence of a fire in the church may hint at the reason for the final abandonment of the church and the settlement in the tenth century CE. The findings of the survey indicate at least a partial reoccupation in the Crusader and Mamluk periods, while the site was ultimately used as a cemetery in the early twentieth century CE
Syon, “Excavations at Khirbet El-Shubeika 1991, 1993: The Church (in Hebrew),” *187.
Southern Phoenicia: The Evidence of a Bronze Oil Lamp from Khirbet Esh-Shubeika.” In The Sabaite Heritage in the Orthodox Church, edited by Joseph Patrich, 347–51. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 98. Leuven: Peeters, 2001.
Di Segni, Leah. “On the Contribution of Epigraphy to the Identification of Monastic Foundations.” In Arise, Walk through the Land : Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld, edited by Jospeh Patrich, Orit Peleg-Barkat, and Erez Ben-Yosef, 185*-198*. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2016.
Syon, Danny. “Excavations at Khirbet El-Shubeika 1991, 1993: The Church (in Hebrew).” In Eretz Zafon: Studies in Galilean Archaeology, edited by Zvi Gal, 255–62. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, 2002.
Tzapheres, Vasileios. “The Greek Inscriptions from the Church at Khirbet El-Shubeika.” In One Land – Many Cultures, edited by G. Claudio Bottini, Leah Di Segni, and L. Daniel Chrupcala, 83–86. Jerusaelm: Fransciscan Printing Press, 2003.
- Protruding apse
- Π-shaped chancel (extended)
- Parts of the mosaic pavement were repaired or replaced. Three Greek dedicatory inscriptions were discovered on the mosaic floor.
Some adjoining structures to the north and east (unexcavated)
- Protruding apse
- Entrances from the east on either side of the apse
- Π-shaped chancel
- Multiple entrances on all sides
- Ambo on the south
- Exterior chapel to the north
- Π-shaped chancel
- Inscribed mono-apsidal
- Room on both sides of the apse
- West entrance
- Ambo on south
- Baptistry in room south of the apse or in the south aisle
- Separate south chapel
- South entrances from side rooms/chapels
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel
- Tri-apsidal usually inscribed
- Altars in the side apses
- Relics and Reliquaries
- Ambo to the north
- Baptistry outside off the atrium or the north aisle
- Marble furnishings (high status imperial association) and imported fine wares
- Decorative elements on chancel screens [specify]
- Separate north chapel
Syrian to Roman conversion
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel replacing Π-shaped chancel
- Side apses inserted into rooms adjacent to the main apse
- Separate north chapel (suppressed south chapel)
- Liturgical furniture with decorative motifs like those at St. Clemente in Rome
A few similarities to Constantinopolitan
- Protruding apse
- Π-shaped chancel