Justinian’s Basilica

“As I’ll enter the magnificent quadrangle and that sacred building with its three splendid apses, I shall rejoice. When my gaze will set on the golden hues of the pillars and of those excellent mosaics, the clouds of my pain shall dissolve. I shall look at the ceiling and its decorations as bright as stars, for by way of the arts, the splendour of the Heavens dwells there”.

Patriarch Sophronius, 603, 604

At the center of the second section is the superb three-apse building that was erected at the end of the sixth century by Emperor Justinian and that today remains more or less unchanged. Among the discoveries of the new archaeological works, there is one linked to a veritable “ritual of the light”: fragile glass lanterns that lit up the old basilica were discovered in a corner between the demolished façade and the new colonnade. Other findings include the magnificent colors of the Constantinian-era fresco and the baptismal font that contained a finely sculpted capital that was used as an additional font.

“In the twenty-first year of the reign of Justinian, the inhabitants of Samaria in Palestine revolted, destroyed and burned all the churches, killed many Christians subjecting them to serious afflictions and put to death the Bishop of Nablus. Hearing of this, King Justinian sent a great army and many Samaritans were killed. […] The king ordered the messenger to demolish the church of Bethlehem, which was small, and to rebuild it to be more impressive, big and beautiful, so that there was none more beautiful in Jerusalem.”

Eutychius, Patriarch of Alexandria (aprox. 876-Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium) Ca.876