Christianity made its initial inroads into fourth-century CE Galilee, which until then was populated largely by Jews. Christian interest at first affected primarily those sites in which Jesus had his ministry and where the Christian community (of undeterminable size) expanded over time. While the archaeological evidence for growing Christian presence in the Galilee comes from such sites or from nearby villages and small towns, modern scholarship has made no recognizable headway in understanding the socio-cultural, religious, and political changes that transpired in the two major Jewish cities under Christian rule—Sepphoris and Tiberias—or in the role of Christian architecture in shaping their cityscapes.
The current project, “The Christianization of the Cities of the Galilee: Socio-Cultural, Religious, and Political Changes in Times of Shifting Borders,” supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant no. 575/18), is examining the changes in Sepphoris and Tiberias with the rise of Christianity and the changes that fostered their expanding Christian communities. Through an analysis of the archaeological finds and the literary sources, this multifaceted study is examining the architecture of religious buildings in the cities of the Galilee to provide new information regarding the socio-cultural and religious transformations within their urban contexts. Beyond gaining an understanding of the architectural and religious aspects of urban Galilee, the study offers scholars of diverse disciplines new perspectives regarding the nature of the process that led to this ultimate transformation in the region, including the Galilee, from Rome and Byzantium and from paganism to Christianity.
Z. Weiss, “From Roman Temple to Byzantine Church: A Preliminary Report on Sepphoris in Transition,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 23 (2010), 196–217.
Z. Weiss and S. Miller, Sepphoris, III: The Temple and Eastern Church in the Lower City (in preparation).
Photot by Gabi Laron