Archaeologists in Jordan unearth 'first church in world'
Posted : Mon, 09 Jun 2008 09:48:02 GMT
Amman - Archaeologists in Jordan have discovered what they claimed to
be the "first church in world" at Rihab, 40 kilometres north-east of
Amman, the Jordan Times reported Monday. "We have uncovered what we
believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33AD to
70AD," Abdul Qader Hassan, head of the Rihab Centre for
Archaeological Studies told the paper.
The discovery lying underneath Saint Gorgeous Church in Rihab is
"amazing, because we have evidence to believe this church sheltered
the early Christians, the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ", he said.
The early Christians, described in the mosaic inscription on the
floor of St Georgeous as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine," are said
to have fled from Jerusalem during the persecution of Christians to
the northern part of Jordan, particularly to Rihab, he added.
Citing historical sources, Hassan said the 70 lived and practised
their rituals in secrecy in this underground church.
"We believe that they did not leave the cave and lived until the
Christian religion was embraced by Roman rulers," he added. "It was
then when St Georgeous Church was built," he said.
The findings in the graveyard near the cave offer valuable clues,
according to the Jordanian archaeological expert.
"We found pottery items that date back from the 3rd to 7th century.
The findings show that the first Christians and their offspring
continued living in the area until the late Roman rule," he said.
"Going down a few steps into the cave, one would see a circle shape
area, believed to be the apse, and several stone seats for the
ecclesiastics," he added.
Archimandrite Nektarious, Bishop Deputy of the Greek Orthodox
Archdiocese, described the discovery of the cave as an "important
milestone for Christians all around the world".
"The only other cave in the world similar in shape and purpose is in
Thessalonica, Greece," Jordan Times quoted the bishop as saying.
Officials at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism said they planned to
capitalise on the discovery to further promote the area to become a
major tourist attraction in the near future.