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MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT

P. Figueras

This study is a developed version of a paper read at the XVIII International Congress of Byzantine Studies, celebrated in Moscow on August 1991.1 Its main purpose is to fill a certain gap existing among scholars, historians and archaeologists, concerning the monastic history of the Roman province of Third Palestine, extending from the plain of Beersheva southwards, and including the Negev desert, most of the Sinai peninsula and the southern region of Transjordan. Indeed, those scholars who, led by an abundant monastic literature, have engaged in a serious research of the archaeological remains of the ancient Palestinian monks, such as Chariton, Eutymius and Sabas, have not crossed the limits of the Judean Desert (Vailhé 1889/90; Festugière 1962/63; Hirschfeld 1991 and 1993; Patrich 1993).2 Others, having tracked the Gaza region in the steps of Hilarion at Thauatha, Sylvanus at Gerar and Seridos near Maiumas of Gaza, have come back rather frustrated (Chitty 1966b). On the other hand, a general updated history of the ancient Church of Palestine is still to be written, though very good tools are today available to anybody wishing to engage in such a scholarly adventure.3 The chapter dealing with the southern region, that is, the Negev desert, is consequently non-existent,4 and nobody has ever tried to follow the traces of a monastic presence there. It seems as if monks and monastic founders never had the
1. This study has partly been written in collaboration with Mr. Ofer Katz, a former student

of mine at Ben Gurion University, today member of the Israel Antiquities Authority. I wish to express him my deepest appreciation. 2. For studies made on Palestinian monasticism see the bibliographic references at the end of the present article. 3. See Bagatti 1972; Id. 1971, The Church from the Circumcision, Jerusalem; Meimaris 1986; Y. Geiger, “Hitpashtut hannatzrut be Eretz Israel mereshitah ad iemei Iulianos” [Expansion of Christianity in Palestine from its Beginning to Julian’s period], in Y. Tsafrir, ed., 1982, Eretz Israel from the Destruction of the Temple to the Muslim Conquest, Jerusalem, pp. 218-233 (Hebrew); Z. Rubin, “Hitpashtut hannatzrut be Eretz Israel miemei Iulianos ad tequfat Iustinianos [Expansion of Christianity in Palestine, from Julian to Justinian],” ibid, pp. 234-251 (Hebrew). 4. More than one researcher, however, has recently made valuable efforts in this direction, not only from the point of view of archaeology and urbanism (Shereshevski 1991), but also from the point of view of history and sociology (Rubin 1990). LA 45 (1995) 401-450; Pls. 53-58

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P. FIGUERAS

Fig. 1 General map of the monastic sites in the Negev.

opportunity to cross that extensive desert, although they were well established around it, in the Gaza region, in the Judean Desert and in the Sinai complex.5 The province of Third Palestine enjoyed Church organisation as much as any other province in the Roman Empire, and flourishing cities such as Petra, its capital, Elusa (Óalutza), Zoar, Phaino (Punon) and Aila possessed their Episcopal Sees. The presence of monks there is therefore to be expected almost as a matter of fact. If this, therefore, can be illus5. This statement is based on the well-known text of Jerome in his Vita Hilarionis (see be-

low, Elusa). The building of the first Christian churches in the towns existing in the Negev in that period could be assigned, in the first place, to the official provision of Christian worship places for the units of the Roman army stationed there since the annexation of the Nabatean territories to the Empire in A.D. 106. There is no agreement among scholars about the number, the location and the exact function of those units, that were stationed more in the towns than in the desert areas (B. Isaac, 1990, The Limits of Empire, Oxford, pp. 132134; but see P. Figueras, 1992, “The Worship of Athena-Allat in the Decapolis and the Negev,” Aram 4, pp. 173-183 [178-179]).

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trated by some literary or archaeological evidence, then we must logically think that some kind of relations, and not only purely spiritual ones, existed between those four monastic regional groups, namely the Judean Desert, the Gaza region, the Sinai mountain and the Negev desert. It is true that no ancient Church historian left us a particular page with dramatic events having occurred in southern Palestine, but there is enough material today, both written and archaeological, to allow us to form a realistic picture of the Negev monasticism. We must admit not only that there were monks in the Negev since the very beginning of its Christianization, but we can also start recording on the map the spots where some of the coenobia, laurae, and urban monasteries were situated. We have references to abbots, monks and hermits both in the pilgrim records and in local epigraphy. Some of their names are still written on their tombs, we can visit the remains of coenobitic monasteries and of churches served by monks, and some hermits’ caves and cells are easily accessible. Actually, there is also written evidence of relations having existed between monastic centers in the Negev and others outside it. We also know of some monastic activities such as writing and agriculture. Finally, we can read the names of monks who, representing monastic regional complexes in the Negev, placed their signatures on the protocols of the Ecumenical Synod of Constantinople in 536. This fact alone attests not only to the high degree of internal organization, but also to the relevance assigned by the Church authorities to that institution. In comparison with the importance of their neighbors in the Judean Desert, the monks from the Negev may have played a very humble role in the general history of the Church of Palestine. But the picture that we can trace of their presence and their importance in the general development of the region during the Byzantine period is not negligible at all. In the following pages we shall proceed to obtain the main lines of that picture through a rather systematic and analytic review of the data collected from both groups of existing sources, namely literary and archaeological. This will be done following a geographic scheme, arbitrarily set in alphabetic order and illustrated with photographs, plans and drawings. It will therefore be much more than a “monastic gazetteer of the Negev,” our purpose being to offer a working tool. I am well aware of the fact that, in many a case, my interpretation of a given datum and some of my guesses will be received with doubt and caution by scholars. But I am no less certain that such criticism will lead to a fruitful discussion and to further research. The sources used for the building-up of the gazetteer according to wellestablished criteria, can be listed in the following way:

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A. Literary sources: 1. Acts of Church councils or synods6 2. Patristic writings, including monastic literature7 3. Pilgrims’ records8 4. Local epigraphy9 5. The Nessana papyri10 B. Archaeological sources: 1. Caves carved on the walls of a wadi, with Christian symbols11 2. Building complexes including most of the typical elements of a coenobitic monastery and situated far away from any settlement12 3. Great urban basilicas having a complex of rooms around their atrium or attached to other parts of the building13 4. A complex of caves and rooms around a central chapel, in a spot remote from any other settlement14
6. Signatures of monks from the Third Palestine and from other parts of the country are

found in the Acts of the Ecumenical council gathered by Justinian in Constantinople in 536 (Schwartz 1940, 248; see below, Aila). This is a major witness, not only to the existence of monks and monasteries in the Negev, but especially to their importance as a well-organized body of the Church of Palestine in the sixth century. 7. Their list includes the names of Jerome (Vita Hilarionis, 25, PL 23), John Moschus (Spiritual Prairie, PG 87/3, 2032: “Abba Victor, hesychastes in the laura of Elusa”), Cyril of Scythopolis (Life of Theognios, trad. Festugière 1963, p. 66: “Abba Paulos, the hesychastes of the city of Elusa”), and the same Paul of Elusa (Life of Theognios, ed. Vailhé, AB 10, 73118). 8. Like today, the number of Christian visitors to the Negev was very restricted in comparison with other parts of the country, as no biblical “Holy Places” are there to be venerated. However, many pilgrims crossed this region on their way to Mount Sinai, as the anonymous Piacenza Pilgrim, who refers to monks and monasteries in the regions of Elusa, Mizpe Shivta (see below, s.v.) and Zoar, south of the Dead Sea. For a general discussion on the issue of Byzantine pilgrims in the Negev, see Figueras 1995 (in press). 9. To the collected inscriptions from the region published by Alt (1921), we can add a list of new publications about inscriptions from 1. Nessana (G.E. Kirk and C.B. Welles, in Colt 1962, 131-197; P. Figueras, “The Inscriptions,” in D. Urman, New Excavations in Nessana, vol. I [in press]). 2. Oboda, Sobata, Mampsis and Elusa (Negev 1981). 3. Beersheva and its region (Figueras 1985; id. 1986; Ustinova - Figueras 1995). 4. Ru˙eibeh (Tsafrir 1988). 5. Beersheva, Elusa, Oboda, Sobata, and other places (Figueras 1995a, in press). 10. Discovered in the course of the expeditions conducted by H. D. Colt in 1935-37 (Colt 1962), and studied and published by Kraemer (1958). 11. See below, ‘Ein ‘Avdat, Wadi Mu’eille˙ and Mampsis. 12. See below, Tel Masos, Tel ‘Ira. 13. See below, Sobata, Oboda, Ru˙eibeh, Nessana. 14. See below, Mitzpe Shivta.

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It will be noticed that the list of monastic sites in the region of our concern does not pretend to be exhaustive. Some of them, like a ruin next to Tel Sheva, have never been reported as such, though they are commonly accepted as having been monasteries. I have preferred to list only those that are available by some literary support.

Aila (near present ‘Aqaba, map ref. 145.884) Formal excavations have only recently been started in ancient Aila, the prosperous harbor-city of Nabateans, Romans and Byzantines on the Red Sea. It is partly identified with the present ruins of Um-Rashrash, on the northernmost point of the Gulf of Eilat or ‘Aqaba, near the Jordanian city of the same name (Avi-Yonah 1977, s.v.). Nelson Glueck’s expedition to the ruins of biblical Etzion-Geber also made sporadic finds from the Byzantine period near the beach. One of them was two sculptured capitals, obviously belonging to one of the local churches. One shows a Roman soldier holding a sphere with a cross on it, identified with St. Theodore by an accompanying inscription (Glueck 1939). The other represents another soldier saint in full armor, identified as St. Longinus by an inscription in Greek (ibid.; Taylor 1987, fig. 3). Another Christian inscription from the area, the tomb-stone of a certain Osedos dated to A.D. 555, was published by Schwabe (1953, 51-55). From the nearby area, Kh. el-Khalde at Wadi el-Yitm, some 25 km to the northeast of Aila, a third Christian inscription was discovered by Glueck (ibid.), witness to the presence of an ancient Christian settlement in that area. At Horvat Bodeda (map ref. 140.890), situated 7 north-west of present Eilat, the remains of a Byzantine complex were found, including a four-room building and a Christian chapel decorated with wall paintings and inscriptions, which, as far as I know, have not yet been published. Given the lonely environment of those ruins, one can logically think of the presence of a little monastery in that spot. This, however, is only a suggestion, because it is clear that in ancient times the place had been exploited as quarry. According to Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15, 145), Um-Rashrash was also called Ed-Deir, Arabic for “The Monastery.” Actually, no remains of any big building have so far been indicated by visitors to the spot. If there is any historic reason for that term, we can imagine the remains of a rather small group of monastic cells having later disappeared under the building of the Turkish police station. Burkhardt (1822, 511-512) also pointed out a place called Ed-Deir near ‘Aqaba, a small island, which cannot be other than the

29) and “the monks of the monasteries of the three Palestines” (ibid. 22). In Sobata. without diminishing it. 536 against Anthimus. we find a certain “John. Spiritual Prairie. 62-66.18 There is a possibility that it was situated around Mount Sinai. but also that they were of orthodox denomination and sufficiently organised as to send a representative to the council. but also the mention of “all archimandrites and monks in the third Palestine” (ibid. 15. recently excavated and partly restored by the Egyptian authorities. . saying: “It has under it the monastery of Great Arsenius” (Palmer 1872.” who signs “in the name of all the monks of Aila in the Third Palestine” (Schwartz 1940. Thus we not only have twice the signature of “Elias. of whom many edifying anecdotes are told. a well-instructed noble man who embraced monastic life in the Egyptian desert in the fourth century. among the names of the clergy signing the council’s decisions. the importance of Aila as a monastic center.406 P.16 This reference is an important evidence to the fact that. not only were there monks in the region.17 but this only confirms. by God’s mercy priest and monk. monk and priest” was discovered on the floor of the baptistry chapel in the north church (see below. ch. This important reference to the existence of monks and monasteries in Aila and surroundings during the Byzantine period has been strangely ignored by all historians and archaeologists concerned by Palestinian monasticism. 51. wrongly taken by some as ancient Yotabe. A much later source. we know from John Moschus that a “laura of the Ailanites” (tön Ailiotön) had been founded there in the sixth century by a certain “abbot Antony. 16.15 The only ruins to be seen today on that island are those of a medieval Arab castle. 51.. 17.. by God’s mercy deacon and monk. 71-442). We do not know today where that monastery was situated. the so-called Notitia Graeca Episcopatuum.D. certainly not far from that city. PG 87. and in the name of the monks of Augustopolis of the Third Palestine” (Schwartz 1940. 40.” and where “abbot Stephen” was the priest (John Moschus. and thus nearer to Aila but still too far. The most valuable source of information for our knowledge of a monastic presence in Aila comes from the acts of the Constantinopolitan Council gathered by Justinian in A. 37. There. adds an interesting note referring to the bishopric of Aila. It would be wrong to look for historical links between this “great Arsenius” and the well-known Abbot Arsenius referred to in the Apophtegmata Patrum (PG 65. one of the Negev towns. 25. 18. 134). FIGUERAS present Coral Island. the tomb of a “triceblessed Arsenius. Today its is currently assumed that Yotabe or Jotabe should be looked for at today’s Straights of Tiran. 554. but it could only be within the jurisdictional radius of Aila’s bishopric. 93). Sobata). Indeed. 33 [35]). It is true that the monasteries of other cities of the Third Palestine sent delegates to the council too. near the southern entrance to the Gulf of ‘Aqaba or Eilat. 248).

according to the inscription on one of the roof beams (Sevøenko 1966.D. is known from different sources. only a small number of fortuitous 19. “a very big village. Musil (1907). de Sudheim. Pseudo-Eucherius. G. 71). Sinai and the people of Aila are also known from other sources. the builder of the Sinai basilica about the mid-sixth century. 2) the records of pseudo-bishop Eucherius20 in the fifth. 67). Seetzen (1855). “a very big village. n. Early Travels in Palestine.22 Byzantine ruins on the spot were later acknowledged by a number of western scholars. Thus Sir John de Maundeville. calls Berosaba vicus maximus.” in which “a fortress (phrourion) of soldiers” (Jerome: “praesidium militum Romanorum”) is situated (Klostermann 1904. map ref. 348). 130.072) This city. Avi-Yonah 1954. T. a monk from Sinai. p. 20. 54). Neumann.23 When the present town of Beersheva was planned by the Ottoman government and the building activity started at the turn of the century. 23. Abel (1903b).e. situated twenty miles south of Hebron” (Wilkinson 1977. C. Paris. to have existed on the same place in the Byzantine period. But a century later. 257. bishop of Lyons. and L. 160). To the first group belongs: 1) Eusebius’ Onomasticum19 in the fourth century. 1884. reports on the visit paid by bishop Sergius of Aila to Abbot Orentius of Sinai at his deathbed (Nau 1902. 1968. Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15). There is not only the fact that Stephen. Archaeological evidence includes the imposing remains of churches. Anastasius. . dealing with the regulation of civil payments to the Roman army. Archives de l’Orient Chrétien. 1322-1365 (ed. Birosaba (Beersheva. footnote 9). literary as well as epigraphic and archaeological. A. p. i. who writes some fifty years after Jerome and uses his Latin translation of the Onomasticum. The same source also tells the story of a famous monk from Sinai who summoned one of his spiritual brothers from Aila before his death (ibid. and 3) the geographic mosaic pavement from Madaba21 in the sixth. New York. Other inscriptions have more recently been discovered and only partially published (see above. 50f). A. 1338. 98. 22. This source refers to the town as kome megiste. was from Aila. whose existence has been recorded since the Middle Ages.. 262). 4-25).MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 407 Relations between the monks of Mt. Pieces of major historical interest among these occasional finds were the fragmentary inscriptions today known as “Imperial Decree of Beersheva” (Alt 1921. De itinere Terre Sancte (ed. Wright.D. possibly to be identified with biblical Beersheva despite other more generalised views. such as Robinson (1838). 21.

but later they were unfortunately lost. Byzantine Beersheva has not been the object of a comprehensive project. . O.408 P. 2). 20. 24. with no clear context. One is the room complex around the atrium of a rather large basilica (24×15 m) discovered Fig. probably as a consequence of the First World War.” We cannot know.24 An informal sketch of the ruins of ancient Birosaba was drawn in 1903 by Fr. were first published by Woolley and Lawrence (1914-15). But their location. mosaic pavements. As far as formal excavations are concerned. FIGUERAS discoveries of church ruins. including also the ruins of two possible monasteries. That sketch indicates a place near the wadi running to the south of the present old city with the name Ed-Deir. Greek inscriptions.. of course. during one of his visits to the spot when the building of the new town had just started (Fig. Abel. 1994. “The Monastery. 2 Birosaba. 12. somewhat away from the town and near the wells along the wady that would ensure enough water for a monastic community. have brought to light important remains. no. the term “monastery” (Figueras 1985. farm installations and necropolises could be rescued for study and publication (Figueras 1982). including. no. 18c). Byzantine ruins (Abel 1903a). if those were really the ruins of a monastery. such as a monolith cruciform Baptism font and a chancel column inscribed with Hebrew characters. confers some plausibility to the popular identification of those ruins by later generations of local Arabs. Some of the most important remains from the Byzantine period. More important may be the fragmentary inscription on a tomb-stone found in the present city. but the sporadic digs conducted there by modern Israeli archaeologists so far.P.

and in the Madaba Map as a big town. in the sixth century. in Yedi‘ot A˙aronot 31 July 1994. See a short report of the dig. pl. one of two famous recluse monks in Seridos’ monastery. apparently fortified with city walls and towers (Avi-Yonah 1944. between Gaza and Maiumas. The doubtless Christian character of the rather sumptuous building allows us to think that it could have been. a residential complex from the Byzantine period was discovered and partially excavated in the south of the present city. 103. but a Greek epitaph found there in secondary use is presently being published (Ustinova Figueras 1995). conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority under the direction of Mr. possibly indicates that John had been the Superior of a monastery in his native town of Beersheva before joining the monastery of Seridos.” or “abbot”. or at least had been appointed supervisor of the building activity in the monastery. 10. no official report of this discovery has seen light.056) The ruins of the ancient city of Elusa. the premises of a monastic community. no. map ref. p. we may adduce the correspondence of Barsanuphius. In no less than six of his two thousand preserved letters “the great old man” Barsanuphius addressed a certain “Abbot John of Birosaba” who was living in the same monastery (Chitty 1966a). generally. though not exclusively. Peter Fabian. From his letters to Barsanuphius it becomes evident that he was an expert in building. “Father. which is indicated in the Peutinger map on the Jerusalem-Aila road. Elusa (El Khalassa. New excavations in Beersheva are taking place these very days to the east of the Municipal Market. however. In the course of 1991. and which has now totally disappeared. by the humility with which he approached his spiritual father asking for counsel.25 As written evidence of a monastic presence in Birosaba. north-east of the old city. Israeli (1967). on the southern bank of Nahal or Wadi Beersheva. at least for a time. with a picture of the mosaic found. as today. used in that period. and the foundations of a huge cruciform church have been exposed. The fact that this monk is called by the honorary title of aba. 117. that was compensated. 6). So far. are situ- 25. Óalutza.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 409 in 1948 and excavated in 1967 by Y. We also learn from the letters that he had an impatient character. to address the Superior of a monastery. It was situated at the present crossing of the Eli Cohen street and Presidents’ Avenue. .

The evidence. The spot was visited by several travelers in the last century.in the laura of Elusa” (PG 87/3. John Moschos mentions in his famous book Spiritual Prairie a certain Victor.i. an extensive biography of St. plan of ruins (Negev 1988. The visit to the spot by the Dominican Fathers of the École Biblique in Jerusalem yielded several Greek inscriptions from the Byzantine period and earlier (Jaussen .Savignac .D. whom he calls “hesychastes . bishop of Bitylium in Northern Sinai (Vailhé 1891) has as its author “Abbot Paul of Elusa”. ated some 20 km south of present Beersheva. which exposed only the Nabatean theater and part of the cathedral church (Fig. 2032). in a desert zone. FIGUERAS Fig. 1979 and 1980. nor from the excavations undertaken there by A. Another source. 115). neither from the short dig conducted on that spot in 1938 by H. Colt. who had succeeded Theognios as superior of his monastery near Je- . In the sixth century A. near the socalled “Óalutza sands”. Negev in 1973.410 P.D. Theognios. 3) (Negev 1993).. comes from the Church literature. 3 Elusa. and was identified with ancient Elusa as early as 1835 by Robinson (1841). however. Archaeological evidence of the presence of monks or monasteries in ancient Elusa has not appeared so far.Vincent 1904). hermit .e.

on Elusa see also Mayerson 1983). tame from the time it was a cub” (ibid. 2). The same pilgrim tells us how he and his companions “discovered a monastery of women in those parts. of the Byzantine Negev. 1) This is one of the very few remains of a Byzantine hermitage in the Negev desert. and given food by the Christians. near the main entrance to the cave. Both the location and the shape of the cave are typical of the Byzantine hermitages in Palestine. who visited the place about 570 A. These four caves were examined during the survey conducted on the spot by Z.” She then disappeared from the city. 60 m above the bed of the wadi and 40 m under the the top of the precipice.5×4. 128.. in contrast with the numerous laurae that are found in narrow canyons or wadis of the Judean desert. The bishop of the city told him about a young lady called Mary. ‘Ein ‘Avdat (map ref. Here we have a small group of four caves. partly excavated artificially in the soft limestone rock of the northern wall of Nahal Tzin. A cross was carved in the rock.a. a better picture will be reached of the monastic presence in and around the most important of the cities of the central Negev. actually the only real city. Tsafrir on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities in the seventies (Meshel .). and was seen living as a wandering hermit “in the desert across the Jordan. “She bore it with courage. It has two rooms. Paul must have deserved such name after a long stay in one of the monasteries of the most important city. 153. and given away all his property to the poor and to monasteries. and See of the only bishop of the central Negev (Figueras 1981. whose husband had died on the very night of the wedding. “and they used to give food to a lion. Meshel and Y. Access to the caves is by narrow steps carved into the rock.Tsafrir s. more than sixteen or seventeen of them who were in a desert place. 85).6×1. Cave No. These are for the moment the scarce data that can be collected from the sources.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 411 rusalem.D. There is no doubt that. 1 (Fig. A third and more explicit source from the same period are the records of the so-called Piacenza Pilgrim. and within a week she had set all his slaves free.” in the Dead Sea region (Wilkinson 1977. 87). 4): This is a natural cave that was adapted as living premises. near the source of ‘Ein ‘Avdat.025) (Phot. above the niche on the wall that was probably used as a cupboard. measuring 4.8 m and 1.5 m respectively. apparently by the ancient monks (Phot.” They had a donkey at their service. . if a proper excavations program is once enterprised in the ruins of ancient Elusa.

Meshel-Tsafrir. 4). 5). 3).v. in Oboda (see below. seems to link the small community of hermits living near ‘Ein ‘Avdat to the central monastery. 29. cave no. Cave No. FIGUERAS Fig. 6): This is a one-room cave situated 7 m above Cave no. Excavated in the flat face of the rock. Tsafrir raises the slight possibility that the man named Zacharia who wrote the inscription in the cave could be the young man of the same name who was buried in the floor of the church of Saint Theodore (Negev 1981.60 m. Fig. access to the cave was made possible through a series . 16. A short Greek inscription was found painted in red on the wall inside the cave. no. 11).30×5.412 P. 5): This cave has only one big room. some 5 km south of these caves. 3 (Fig. an invocation to Saint Theodore (Fig.). The fact that the south church of Oboda or ‘Avdat. 2). s. it measures 2.15 m. a coenobium. 4 ‘Ein ‘Avdat. Outside the entrance to the cave. was dedicated to that same saint.25×6. 2. measuring 5. Cave No. At the time of its use. a low bench was carved along the rock wall (Phot. 1 (Meshel-Tsafrir. 2 (Fig. forming a sort of balcony overlooking the impressive view (Phot.

2 (Meshel-Tsafrir. Inscription in cave. 11. cave no. no. 4 (Fig. . Its height reaches 1. 5 ‘Ein ‘Avdat.75 m. Fig.50×1. However.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 413 of small steps dug out of the rock. Two flat surfaces inside the cave had been purposely cut into the rock to serve as storage devices.70 m at its maximum. Fig. 2. 6). 17). p. and it measures 3. ill. 7): It is situated 20 m north of Cave no. Cave No. 3). it is possible that the excavation of this cave was never completed. The excavators suggest that this cave was also used as kitchen (ibid. 2 (Meshel-Tsafrir.

. Óorvat Óur (also Khir bet Óor a or Óaur a.077) These ruins. situated about 100 m south-east of the present cross-roads of the Hebron-Beersheva and Arad-Tel Aviv roads. Govrin 1992. 396-397) and again visited by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15). 76. no. The first group includes a large basilica. The second one. 4). 5). 4 (Meshel-Tsafrir. evidence of two groups of Byzantine buildings has been reported in the recent archaeological survey conducted on the spot by Y. 143. is a complex of rooms and courtsyards built of large flint stones (Fig. FIGUERAS Fig. situated near the northern walls of the first. cave. no. Fig. Govrin (HA 1984. Fig. However. 8). 7 ‘Ein ‘Avdat. this second complex could represent a monastery (Govrin 1992. The latter pointed out that no traces of a church were visible on the spot.55-60). Fig. were noticed by the German traveler Seetzen in 1805. the British surveyors Conder and Kitchener (1883. 58. 3 (Meshel-Tsafrir. with an atrium on its west and some rooms around it (21×51 m) (Fig. According to its publisher. 6 ‘Ein ‘Avdat. 2). map ref. 44*-45*. 9).414 P. cave.

plans of monastery and church complexes (Govrin 1991.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 415 Fig. . Óorvat Óur. 8-9 58. 3).

Mader. 10 Óorvat Kuseife. though some scholars would like to identify it with the civil settlement of Malatha (Oppidum Malathis) (Avi-Yonah 1977. priest of Malath[a]” (Figueras 1985. 18 km west of present Arad.v. 155. 78. Pl. 10) was served by a monastic community (Ovadiah 1970.). who visited the spot in 1911/14. as in Ru˙eibeh.073) These important ruins. 51).069). to the south of the first one (Mader 1918. s. 39 [no. it would be another example of monastic churches situated in or very near to towns. 152. Malatha). No archaeological proof can be adduced for the normally accepted identification of ancient Malatha with the site today called Tel Mal˙ata or Tel el-Mil˙ (map ref. It was A.082). s. a fragmentary inscription found in Óorvat Karkur ‘Elit (186 . 7 km north of Beersheva. reported the presence of two other churches. which is still a matter of controversy. . As early as in 1901. 18).416 P. although this cannot be proved until real excavations are conducted on the spot. plan of church complex (Ovadiah 1970. So far there is no way to identify Óorvat Kuseife with one of the towns mentioned in the few literary sources referring to the Negev. 121).26 Fig. 225). On the other hand. situated on the road to Arad.v. 26. mentions a certain “Salamanos. 34]). a church was reported there by Musil (1908. FIGUERAS Óorvat Kuseife (map ref. Sobata and Oboda (below. represent a big settlement from the Byzantine period. Should this be the case. Ovadiah who suggested that the northern church (Fig. 31] and 42 [no.

this complex was probably a monastery. from the Negev as well as from other regions. and a defense tower (8×8 m) from the north. its situation on the edge of the village.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 417 Fig. that I fully share.97-99). including a large Byzantine church (19×40 m). is situated on the southern side of a hilltop covered with the ruins of ancient settlement. 148. *67. In his opinion. 1). are elements that we find in better documented monasteries. 409-410). has been recently surveyed again by Y. plan of church complex (Govrin 1991. Óorvat So’a (Khirbet Sa’wa) (map ref. Govrin on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (Govrin 1992. This site. The rectangular structure (25×38 m) adjoining the church from the south apparently served as living-quarters. the number of spacious rooms adjoining the church from the south. 11 Óorvat So’ah. 11) An architectural complex.Kitchener 1883. . 98. who also published its schematic plan. Indeed. already reported by the British survey more than a century ago (Conder .075) (Fig.

400-404. Together with other parts of the town.. 156. Although visited and surveyed by several scholars. FIGUERAS Mampsis (Kurnub. on the eastern side of the Northern Negev. 1988. Mamshit). 124) and others (Shereshevski 1991. Mamshit) (map ref. which are probably the oldest ones in the Negev (Negev 1974. 12 Mampsis (Kurnub. 12) The ruins traditionally called Kurnub by the local Arabs were identified with the ancient town called Mampsis in Eusebius’ Onomasticum (8:8) in the fourth century and numerous sixth century sources such as the Madaba Map (Avi-Yonah 1944. New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. the Nessana Papyri (Kraemer 1958.418 P. In the second century C. Fig.048) (Fig.E. 7) recorded that town as Maps. the geographer Ptolemy (V. 64-82). large scale excavations were not conducted in the site till 1965 by A. The ruins are situated 5 south-east of today’s Dimona. Mamshit). 96). . he also excavated the two Byzantine churches. plan of ruins (Negev. Negev. 15. 21-22). such as the city-walls and two big residential buildings.

Meimaris (1986. could not be anything but the defense of a community of people living in and around it. 13 Mampsis. been the house of that same man (Negev 1974. Indeed. Unfortunately.). 401). such a residence attached to the church may indicate that a monastic community used to live in it. 13). 14). Fig. . This beautiful building. This assumption could be confirmed by several crosses on its inner lintels. This title of paramonarios.).v. in front of the sanctuary. according to the excavator. ibid. 259-260) describes paramonarios’ duties as related to the custody and supervision of a church and church properties in the name of the local bishop. plan of the east church complex (Negev. most probably a monastic community serving in that church. as it certainly was. the inscription in question. which also includes a baptistry chapel annexed to its southern wall. The western church (Fig. that could have. or a simple monk. 5). this inscription mentions a certain “Abba (Greek: TON ABBA) [son] of Zenobios the paramonarios. frequent in ancient Church epigraphy.Kurnub). The purpose of such a stronghold in a Parish church. A similar case in the Negev is the southern church in Oboda (see below.” 27 Its publisher has translated these words by 27. does not correspond to a modern one in the Greek Church. Here also. has a residential building attached behind it (Phot. have recently (October 1994) been irreparably vandalised. s. a clerk of lower rank.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 419 The eastern church (Fig. but this is better done by a Greek inscription on the church floor. a deacon. He could be a priest.” from the name of its main donor. as well as the whole mosaic floor of the Nilus church at Mampsis (Mamshit . This so-called “Nilus Church. has a complex of several rooms on its western side and a tower at its north-western angle.

). but the presence of the article before the word ABBA seems to be an indication that the latter term is to be understood as the monastic title abbas (simply “Father” better than “abbot”. it is easier to consider the western church of Mampsis also as a church served by a monastic community. Mitzpe Shivta (Mishrefe) (map ref. an open cistern and a well (Phot.420 P. around which and on a lower level are living rooms. FIGUERAS Fig. i. who saw in it “undoubtedly a monastic establishment. If my interpretation is correct. Superior of a monastery).036) (Phot. the ruins of the town of Sobata or Shivta (see below) appear on the horizon. also in the Negev (Meimaris 1986. 71). 6). 6-7) Situated on the edge of a high hill facing an extensive plain. Both translations are plausible.” basing their . a laura. and from this fact the present name Mitzpe Shivta.e. “Abba (son) of Zenobios the warden” (Negev 1981. very frequent in the monastic epigraphy of that time. and thus also Musil in 1901. 14 Mampsis. plan of the west church complex (Negev. 112.e. natural caves. Palmer identified it as a Roman fortress. “the observation point (Arab. taking Abba as the name of Zenobios’ son. i. Six km to the east of the plain. this site includes the ruins of an enclosure wall with a gate on the western side and a small chapel on the opposite side.” On his visit to the place in 1871. An opposite view was expressed by Woolley and Lawrence. 235-239). mishrefe) upon Shivta. ibid.

It was found that the western gate on the wall (Fig.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 421 Fig. Baumgarten did not find enough evidence in the structure of the building to determine its original function. 99). 97-108). general plan of ruins (Baumgarten 1986. as part of the general survey of the region (Segal 1986. . in the middle of which were the ruins of a stone building measuring 12×14. Baumgarten on behalf of the Israel Department of Antiquities. Wiegand. also thought that it had been a monastery (Wiegand 1920). who had visited the place in 1916. 15 Mitzpe Shivta. An archaeological survey of the ruins was conducted on the spot in 1979 by Y. 15) gave entrance to a large open space. This building had been interpreted by Woolley and Lawrence as a guest-house or the residence of the Superior of the monastery.5 m. opinion on the local pottery sherds and the building systems (Woolley Lawrence 1914/15).

partly excavated into the rock (Fig. 16) includes a simple prayer hall measuring 18. FIGUERAS The chapel on the eastern side of the open space (Fig.2×6. A similar interpretation was given by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15) to a small tower situated to the east of the chapel. apparently built later than the original building. 16 Mitzpe Shivta. 17 Mizpe Shivta. .422 P. with an apse on the east 1. which can be seen on a lower level than the chapel around the edge of the natural platform. 7). Fig. plan of rockcut rooms (Baumgarten 1986. have been interpreted as hermits’ cells by Baumgarten (1986). White and colored fragments of the plaster once covering the walls and the apse were found on the stone slabs of the pavement.6×4. 101). This room measures 11.6. 17). suggests seeing it as the desert inn described c. 87). who dates the site in a general way to the late Byzantine period on an archaeological basis. Fig. The rooms. “which provides something of a refuge for passers-by and gives food for hermits” (Wilkinson 1977. Baumgarten. partly built.0 m. the guest-house (xenodochium) of Saint George. 570 by the anonymous Piacenza pilgrim. who called it “a fort.” situated twenty miles from Elusa to the south.9 m deep and a room annexed to its southern wall. 101). plan of the chapel (Baumgarten 1986. An arched structure facing east is probably a prayer cell (Phot.

28. but also because it is confirmed by epigraphic evidence. incised on the base of a plastered arch-stone in one of the rooms partly excavated into the rock (Phot. either as hermits in a laura or as members of a closed community. and they all took a rest in that fort and monastery that “provided them something of a refuge” (Figueras 1995).. near which agriculture was certainly practiced in ancient times (Bruins 1986. 8). . We actually know from the Life of Hilarion written by Jerome. the writer of the inscription was probably on his way to Mount Sinai. not a local monk. 19).” It is a prayer written by a man who asks for himself. carved into the limestone not far from the abundant source of ‘Ein El-Qudeirat. It is to be observed that soldiers stationed around the same place where monks were living. had been used by monks in the Byzantine period. 090-010) (Fig. today on the Egyptian side of the Israel-Egypt border in the central Negev. Like the Piacenza Pilgrim. accompanied by his family and servants. his wife.28 The reference to Saint George certainly indicates that that saint was the Patron of the place. his daughter and his servants. 25. The general shape and other details of this cave are similar to the monastic cells found in ‘Ein ‘Avdat (above) and many others in the Judean desert and elsewhere. Mo’eile˙ (map ref. not only because the distance and the character of Mitzpe Shivta’s buildings (monastic and military). Vit. 105-120). coincide with those of the sixth century Piacenza Pilgrim. Some steps cut into the floor of the central room led to an unknown place.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 423 I agree with Baumgarten’s interpretation.. that monks lived in the area of Qadesh since the mid-fourth century (Hieron. where a monastic cave was reported by the Dominican Father Abel (1903b). the cave included a central room that had entrances to another three small rooms. 18) This is the name of a place near Qadesh Barne‘a. Indeed. Hil. In all probability. the God of Saint George. I hope to publish soon this interesting inscription. is not a surprise in the Byzantine period. and the tenor of the text indicates that the kind of person who wrote it was certainly a layman passer-by. PL 23). this cave too. at least along roads that were considered dangerous for private people to walk. a rather long cursive inscription in Greek.. even today the visitor can read. According to his description and sketch (Fig. starting with the words “Oh Lord. as we read in Egeria’s records (Wilkinson 1971).

1903a). 19 Monastic cave near Wadi Mo’eile˙ (Abel. . Fig. FIGUERAS Fig.424 P. 18 Map showing Wadi Mo’eile˙ and position of monastic cave (Abel 1903b).

Pap. was probably served by a community of monks. because it is not clear whether he describes one of our churches no. . some 150 m south of the location of No. 15×10 m for the atrium) do not correspond to any of those other churches. not only on the life of that town. No. Sergius and Bacchus (the north church) and No. He actually describes a basilica he saw on the same plain where those are found. by the present Israeli expedition (Urman 1990). 3. Nos. However. We can today speak of at least six churches having been built in Nessana in the Byzantine period. 20) This town. we can be sure that churches no. Our list is as follows: No. 1. on the acropolis.. used to bring offerings on the feast of the Patron Saints (Kraemer 1958. some of which were already found before the American expedition (Alt 1921). This church. also recently excavated by the same expedition. on the northern slope of the acropolis. 097. many other data relevant to our subject were also collected in Nessana from two sources other than the papyri. were excavated by the American expedition (Colt 1962). including Elusa and Birosaba. ‘Auja el-Óafir) (map ref. to which maybe another should be added. and the architectural features revealed by the archaeological excavations. but was later destroyed because the Turks wanted to transform it into a guest-house.031) (Fig. St. among whom Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15). namely the inscriptions. Mary Mother of God (the south church). For different reasons. It is to be noted that. to which people from numerous villages. 6 is the chapel of a small monastery. is by far the best documented of all Byzantine settlements in the Negev. in the plain. 1. No. but also of all the Negev and its inhabitants in general at the edge of the Byzantine period and the first decades of Muslim occupation. a new archaeological dig has been taking place at Nessana under the direction of Dan Urman on behalf of Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Urman 1990).E. since 1987 till the present. had been described by former visitors. apparently the most sumptuous and probably the most important of the town. Indeed. 3. St. 21). namely the one reported almost a century ago by Lagrange (1897). the discovery of an archive of papyri from the sixth and seventh centuries C. 1. as will soon become evident. at that site (till then called by the Bedouins ‘Auja el Óafir) by the American Colt Expedition in 1935 (Colt 1962). 3 and 6 were related to monks. 3. 2.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 425 Nessana (Nitzana. but the shape and measurements he gives (20×10 m for the church. with the names of St. Church no. 4 or 5 or a different one. Sergius and Bacchus (Fig. 4 and 5 correspond to a double church recently discovered and excavated in the plain.C. came to throw light. Finally. towns and cities. probably founded by the Nabateans in the second century B. 79).

This apparent incongruency has been noticed by all those who have dealt with Nessana’s papyri and inscriptions. even though at periods he was a married person.29 In one of the papyri found 29.10. Pap. A suggested solution is to consider those hegumenoi as having entered the monastic order only after they became widows. FIGUERAS Fig.3. 50. see Meimaris 1986.4. . 239-246). 47. 77.8.1.1. 147. Colt 1962. 45. 46.426 P. 12. Its Superior is often referred to in papyri and inscriptions with the monastic title of hegoumenos (Kraemer 1958. nos. 77. 20 Map of Nessana ruins (Woolley-Lawrence 1914/15).

One of these references is not to the monks of Nessana but to those of Mount Sinai..). there is an interesting graffito including a long list of eight saints. and the title abba. The evidence on the monastic attachments of this church. possibly himself a monk. 167).23.” occurs four times in the papyri (ibid. seven “Fathers” and three “Mothers” (Colt 1962. the man from Nessana.D. this church complex is called “the mone (that is. The list in question is as follows: “Saint Mark” “Saint Bliphimus” “Saint Manicus” “Saint Ambrose” “Saint Isidore” “Saint Nonius” “Saint Pamphilus” “Father Romanus” “Father Manalas” “Father Cyril” “Father Zenobius” “Father Chariton” “Father Samur” “Father Sabinus” “Father Germanus” “Our Mother Anna” “Our Mother Martha (lit. 595 (ibid.31 Church no. “Father. as suggested by its publishers (Colt. as the 30.(30) The term monachos. The list was possibly used as a sort of a calendar. 91. 90. 38. who wrote it on the plastered voussoir stone. with an Abbot of the same name. “monk. the remains of which were reported by early visitors and today unfortunately destroyed (above). see inscription 78 in Colt 1962. but also from the buildings surrounding it. some very famous. 236. Mathra)” “Our Mother Pheste” This is not the right place to comment on this list. 151-152). referred to in Pap.35. It has even been suggested to identify “Father Martyrios” of Mount Sinai. Mone is actually a synonym for monasterion and other Greek terms meaning monastery.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 427 in a room annexed to this church. Meimaris 1986. 31. A. Sergius” (Kraemer 1958. while others belonged to the western Church.. no. Indeed. pp. 79. 89. others who had been famous in Palestine. Pap.25. but it is obvious that monks and nuns. no. 254 and 259. come particularly not only from the contents of an inscription. Sinai c. 3. with whom the former apparently held current relations. Cf. some of them well-known Egyptian monks.61. Besides the above said hegoumenos that occurs several times.44). 1177. were very familiar to Thaleleus. others less. ibid. n. Pap. .23. pp. “monastery”30) of St. The epigraphic evidence is also impressive.” no less than fifteen times. 23). 31. Superior of Mt.

plan and section of SS.428 P. as already suggested by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15). Sergius and Bacchus church and monastery (church no.5×9 m) had a spacious atrium (12. 1) (Colt 1962. 21 Nessana. LXIII). FIGUERAS Fig.5 m) to the west. The latter was probably a monastery.7×18. Pl. a rectangular hall in the north. . and a room complex in the south. the church (17. plan shows.

34. fifth indiction-year. ex-assesor and monk. Pap.31. but a monk that is legally able to dispose of his fortune.62). and member of the city council of the metropolis Emesa. which actually only reads m[ ]. Sergius and Bacchus. 33. In the year 496. the year would be 435 C. so as to offer. Its dedicatory text comes as a surprise in more than one aspect: “For the salvation of the donors Sergius. had decided to live permanently in Nessana. It should be observed that term is only a guess by the publishers of the corrupted text of Pap.32 It is plausible to think that those people. The first person mentioned is now a monk. This is according to the Arabic or Elusa era. after he retired from his lucrative job as a lawyer in Emesa. Dan Urman for kindly allowing me to make use of the photo and to report on his discovery. the 20th of month Gorpiaios” (September 7. with or without his sister and nephew. 609). The monastery seems to have been built according to a well-drafted and regular plan. In the latter case. such a gift as the foundation of a monastery with its church. together with his sister and nephew. 6 (Phot. 79.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 429 The Greek inscription on the mosaic floor of the church was already published by Huntington (1911) and reproduced by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15) and also by Kirk and Welles (Colt 1962). Their presence there is explained by the pilgrim movement to Mount Sinai through the Negev desert (Figueras 1995). a monastery of women. deacon. still unpublished. This suggestion could be supported by the presence of the Greek word matronikia (“women quarters”?) in one of the Nessana papyri (Kraemer 1958.33 Undoubtedly. The huge well near the upper church is actually situated between both monastic complexes and could be used by both communities.E. Church No. and John. Palut his sister.29. Should one be allowed to speculate about this multiplication of monasteries in Nessana. 9). Ovadiah prefers to interpret it of the era of Gaza. her son. It could be that he himself. on the slope of the acropolis hill. we could come to the conclusion that one of them. 79. Its location is north of the complex of St. this complex of a small chapel surrounded by rooms and a square atrium with its cistern can only be interpreted as a coenobium or the premises of a small closed monastic community. I thank my colleague Dr. A. might be a nunnery. founded a monastery in Nessana on the occasion of their visit to the town.D.34 The existence of monasteries of women in the 32. . At least we can imagine that they all spent enough time in the town or surroundings as to see the completion and dedication of their rich foundation. probably the one referred to here. members of a rich family from the remote Syrian city of Emesa (today Homs).

Not by chance either. not living a life only of prayer and contemplation but combined with some manual work. 634. s.v. “A Monastery Farm from the Early Byzantine Period at Shlomi. that is. It is possible that even the civil administration was in the hands of the Church authorities. On the other hand. Pap. evidence of organized and sophisticated agricultural activity by monks of the Byzantine period has also been discovered (C.” Qadmoniot 12 (45). If this could be proved. Two interesting writing tablets were discovered there also. Chariton in the Judean desert. who visited one of them near Elusa. Not by chance. 43-48). The evidence comes from the papyri referring to the plot of land of a certain “Victor. we obtain the general picture of a rich civil center in the Negev.430 P. that occurred about A. as the archaeological records show. still holding their wax layer with some words scratched on it by a young student.). we would have in Nessana a kind of monasticism more akin to the ideals of St.v. Sergius (and Bacchus). which certainly included a boys-school as well. 36. s. Hebrew. 25-29. . 1979.” in Tsafrir 1993.D. See above. Id. with a rather strong economy based not only on agriculture and trade. but also on what would today be called “Christian tourism” (Figueras 1995b). such literary pages as those of the Latin poet Vergil. 90. Dauphin. Basil of Cappadocia than to those of St. 35. the most important papyri were found in the premises of the monastery of St. In the north of Israel. 73) actually arrived in the hands of that powerful person. As a matter of fact.61). were found there. monks involved in such social activities as organized education. it is also very probable that monks from the Nessana area were involved in agricultural and commercial activities.35 and 91. it had usually been admitted by scholars that agriculture had been practiced by monks in Palestine in the Byzantine period. son of the Very Honorable Sergius Aladias. A case in point for the Negev region is the wine-press near the north church of Sobata (see below. Such interesting features in the archaeological records preserved in that Nessana monastery are better explained if we just consider it as being the cultural center of the town. see also Pap..36 But here we have it written in a sixth century document. whose Head held the monastic title of hegoumenos. and these were particularly linked to monastic institutions. FIGUERAS Byzantine Negev is well attested to by the already quoted text of the Piacenza Pilgrim. Pachomius in Egypt or St. “A Byzantine Ecclesiastical Farm at Shlomi.35 Summarizing all the available data about Nessana in the last period of its existence from before and after the Muslim conquest. Pap.2324. 31. The letters addressed by the Muslim governor of Gaza to “the people of Nessana” (Kraemer 1958. monk” (Kraemer 1958. together with fragments of a Latin-Greek dictionary.

the destruction of the town in the seventh century is probably to be assigned to an earthquake that took place in 631. 10) and Eboda of the Nessana Papyri (Kramer 1958. he was also buried. 22) The present ruins of ‘Avdat. ‘Avdat) (map ref. Later on. These names. and probably following the construction of the huge fortress in the sixth century with its little chapel. which the Arabs preserved under the form of ‘Abdeh (Jaussen . On the basis of coins and inscriptions. situated in the central Negev on the Beersheva Eilat road (Fig. According to the results of more recent excavations. 22 Map of Oboda (after ‘Eini 1986.2. 414).C. assumed that the entire town with its two churches were destroyed by the Muslims in 636 (Negev 1974. A. Fig. who was considered to have been the founder of the town.Savignac . the first (or north) church was built in the area of an ancient Nabatean temple on the acropolis. its excavator. another (the south) church was built on the acropolis (Fig. 37. according to Stephen of Byzanz. Apparently in the fifth century (Negev 1974. 39. [‘Avdat] 6). 128.37 Actually. the first Christian inscription from the south church of Oboda dates from 550 and the last one from 617 (Negev 1981. represent the ancient town of Oboda of the Peutinger Map (Phot. 24).). 403). ‘Abdeh. .MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 431 Oboda (Eboda. certainly correspond to that of the Nabatean king Obodas (39-9 B.Vincent 1904). 29 and 37). Pap. 23). in which.022) (Fig.13). Negev. but this is today much doubted.

(son) of Erasinos. and it is quite natural to see it applied to a priest who could have been the Superior of the monastery in which he was buried.Fig. this could be the central coenobium to which the hermits from the laura of ‘Ein ‘Avdat (above) were connected. next to the parking place.6 m) and having two chapels for the veneration of relics. . the presbyter. but it can today be seen.” who died on September 22. Beside the already mentioned graffito on the so-called Saints’ Cave on the slope of the acropolis. this time written in cursive letters in red color on the shoulder of a very large pottery container. 617 C. in the small restaurant at the foot of ‘Avdat. 31. has an epitaph of the pavement of the church calling it “Martyrium of St. 31). FIGUERAS Evidence of a monastic presence in Oboda comes from two sources. restored. no. graphic relation between Oboda and the monastic bly had an upper story. another invocation to the same Saint was found in the south church inscribed on a fragment of chancel screen (Negev 1982. 36-37). though not exclusively. 11). and it refers to a certain “Father (Greek ABBAC) Kapito. a pithos. One of the five epitaphs on the pavement of this church complex was found in the portico of the atrium. in basilical style (21×12. As said above (Mampsis). This caves of ‘Ein ‘Avdat (after ‘Eini 1986. 24).39 38. proba. A last hint to the relations between Oboda and the monastic world comes from another inscription. both from the south church. Theodore” (Negev 1981. feature and the remains of a tower on the south-west corner of the same atrium seem to point to the presence of a monastic community. (Negev 1981. 39.432 P. 25).E. 235-236). surrounded by several rooms on three 23 Map of the ‘Avdat region. The pithos was unfortunately smashed to pieces. As already said. as was recognised by its excavators (Ovadiah 1970. This church (Fig. namely architecture and epigraphy.38 The almost square atrium (15×14 m) to the western side of the basilica. [‘Avdat] 5). showing geoof its sides (Phot. to the north and the south of the central apse. by monastic superiors (Meimaris 1986. the title ABBAC was much used. 30).

it was “found in situ in the building to the west of the acropolis. To the deacon Germanus. Theodosius. the geron or “old .MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 433 Fig. Indeed. 24 Oboda. The last two words are important.” and the text on it reads: “+ O Lord assist. 43-44). According to its publisher. 124). plan of churches and monastery complex (Ovadiah [Levant 1]. (sent) by the geron Theodosius” (Negev 1981.

no. who suggested identifying the place with 40. Anyway. were honored with the same title.434 P. near Bethlehem. already published by Alt (1921. probably full of oil or wine. the house-caves that can be seen on the western slope of the acropolis were once inhabited by monks. to a deacon in Oboda. Tsafrir (partly in collaboration with R. of a woman that was “virgin of God” (Greek: parthene [sic!] Theou). at a certain period at least. Birosaba). Phot. was sent by a venerable monk by name Theodosius.. 108. 16. as other cases must certainly be interpreted. 1979 and 1986 excavations were conducted at the site by T. who was certainly endowed with powerful administrative authority. being only “17 years and seven months old” (Negev 1981. the sending of a big pithos.048) This Byzantine town of the Negev was known to all the visiting scholars of the last century and beginning of the present one. Despite the similarity of the Arabic name Ru˙eibeh to the town of Re˙ovot mentioned in the Bible (Gen 26:22).. among which there is a rough drawing of a saint soldier. but one must admit that it would be a little strange that two monks of the same name living in Palestine about the same time. no. Such an epithet seems to me to refer to a consecrated virgin.41 Ru˙eibeh (Re˙ovot ha-Negev) (map ref. “Old Man” was a monastic honorary title given to cer- tain venerable monks (see Meimaris 1986. This would explain the crosses and other Christian symbols decorating some of the walls. such as Barsanuphius (above. Theodore. there is only a light hint in the epitaph. Of course. according to the graffiti accompanying it (Negev 1981. 37). as archaeology does not support it. Here in Genitive form. probably representing St. We cannot exclude the possibility that. In 1975. 29). . 1976. 44: “. there seems to be no connection between both places. koinobiarch or Father of all the monasteries of the Holy Land since 492. 239). In Oboda we also find a boy “who died unmarried” (eteleutesen agamos). Pl. we have no right to identify the two names. FIGUERAS man”40 here referred to. and not just to a woman that happened to die before she got married. One case is in Oboda (Negev 1981. who could be the economus or administrator of a monastic comunity in that remote town of the Negev. could be the famous Saint Theodosius. who founded the monastery till today called Mar Dosios. 41. Rosenthal-Hegginbottom). another one in Elusa (Alt 1921. 44: “the virgin Sosanna”). Concerning the presence of nuns in Oboda. and his daughter virgin”). 114). gerontos.

25 Ru˙eibeh. an interesting crypt measuring 3. map). a Byzantine toponym referred to in Papyrus 79 of Nessana (Kraemer 1958. 294-302). Indeed. The one in the center had been described by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15) as being attached to a monastery and a khan. The access to it was provided by a flight of steps on each side. which has also been excavated. the center. and it measures 24. The existence of this crypt is evidence of the frequency of visitors to the town and the church. in the north-west. plan of north church and monastery (Tsafrir 1993). which most probably is explained by the fact that Ru˙eibeh lay on the road connecting Elusa with Nessana. is situated some 100 m outside the built area of the town.10 m. is certainly a monastery church. apparently for the veneration of some important relics. one of the pilgrim routes finally leading to Mount Sinai (Figueras 1995b. the east and the south.4×4. Bertheiba. the north church. Assistance to pilgrims in this particular church was assured by the presence of monks.80×13. Its special feature. the excava- . though not entirely. Four churches were discovered in the town. as its excavator has proved (Tsafrir 1988). Tsafrir 1993. This church.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 435 Fig. 295). but the presence of a monastery has not been supported by the excavations (Tsafrir 1993. 25).3 m was discovered below the presbytery and the nave. On the other hand. a threeabsidal basilica (Fig. around the southern wall of the atrium.

It is not clear whether these rooms and those probably existing in the unexcavated area on the northern side of the atrium had an upper story. but the results of this excavation were never published. 300). Musil in 1901. A cistern in the middle of the courtyard collected rain water from the roofs of church and monastery for the maintenance of its dwellers. Its impressive ruins called the attention of many visitors. being as it is remote from the normal trade routes (see Fig. particularly a long and spacious one containing a long narrow table. . as was the case in the north church of Sobata (here below). 114. plan of the town showing The monastic presence in south. among them Palmer in 1870. Sobata (Sobota. 26) This town was probably built by the Nabateans towards the first century C. and survived the Muslim conquest up to the eighth or ninth century. central and north churches and surSobata is an established fact. A good plan of Sobota was produced by Woolley and Lawrence in 1914/15. rounding buildings (after ‘Eini 1986. The American-British Colt expedition worked on the spot in 1934-36. It must be pointed out that the inscriptions found so far in Ru˙eibeh do not confirm the presence of monks in the town. in 1905. Its location may owe more to agricultural than to commercial criteria. FIGUERAS tions cleared some rooms.E. [Shivta] 6). Fig. and Jaussen. but no reports were published then either. The north church was again surveyed and studied by Negev and R. who discovered the three churches and a number of inscriptions. Then it was the turn of Avi-Yonah and Negev in 1958-60. that was interpreted as the dining-room of the monastery (Tsafrir 1993. Sbeita.032) (Fig.. Shivta) (map ref. 26 Sobata. Rosenthal in 1978 (RosenthalHegginbottom 1982).436 P. Savignac and Vincent. 1).

North church (Fig.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 437 Fig. 27 Sobata. without the . this was the only church in Sobata “built on the periphery of the site. north church and monastery complex (Woolley . as will hopefully be shown in the following report on the three churches. 27). and not only the north one.Lawrence 1914/15). were monastic churches. As Shereshevski (1991. It is indeed very possible that all three. 75) points out. supported by epigraphy as well as by architectural criteria.

in the epitaph of our monk Arsenius of Sobata. The northern gallery of the atrium is paved with mosaic. 56-57). 22). 630 42. his memory is praised with such solemn expressions as “laid in Christ. . Indeed. 554. today collapsed (except for its outer. a tomb in the baptistry is that of “thrice-blessed Arsenius (son) of Abraamios.438 P. monk and priest” (Negev 1981. As pointed out above (Aila). one can see a high stone-bed (Phot.. Plan 4).” who died on the 4th of January. a spacious atrium surrounded by rooms in the west (Fig. reinforced walls. isometric reconstruction of the eastern wall of the atriun north church and monastery (RosenthalHegginbottom. there is probably no relation between this Arsenius and another apparently famous monk of the same name who had his monastery within the jurisdictional area of the bishop of Aila (Palmer 1871. 1982. all covered with arches which once supported an upper story. and close to its southern entrance. led most scholars to accept that it had been built to be a monastery. resting among saints. such as the interpretation of the small square in the middle of the atrium as being the basis of a column. which might have served the monk responsible for the reception of guests and pilgrims. monk and priest.. 232) have no supporting evidence. The rooms around the atrium include a long hall to the west (probably a dining room). 28). Yet it is interesting to realize that. and a baptistry chapel to its south. thrice-blessed Arsenius. and smaller rooms to the south. FIGUERAS constraints or limitations of a built-up area surrounding it. Attached to Fig. including a three-absidal basilica facing east (19×12 m). Other speculations. a memorial to a holy monk who had once been lived as stylite in the neighborhood of Sobata (RosenthalHiggenbottom 1981. a chapel attached to the southern wall of the basilica. which was the floor of the second story. standing up to a height of 5 meters). Many details of the building around the atrium. Epigraphy seems to strengthen the monastic character of this church. 12). 28 Sobata. and a flight of steps led to its roof.” It is a whole complex of buildings.

This is especially true of the wine press that. and the transformation of the initial pastophoria or side-rooms into relic chapels (Margalit 1987). It is frequent in the monastic literature to see monks having sons. The latter is immediately connected to a complex of spacious buildings built around three small courtyards on its southern and eastern sides. in all the other wine-presses in the Negev there are compartments around the threading area (‘Eini 1986. (Negev 1981. contrary to usual. but its sumptuous entrance. The existence of towers. [Har ha-negev] 13) apparently to allow a previous inspection of the weight and quality of the grapes brought by each family to the common press. All scholars agree that this is the most recent of the three churches of the town.” only because it includes a high square tower (Segal 1986). 52-52). the monk of Sinai whose young son Theodulos.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 439 C. it has been speculated by some to be the xenodochium or “inn of Saint George” mentioned by the Piacenza Pilgrim. A previously existing cistern has its mouth inside the church. built when the street in front of it was already in existence. These were characteristics of the pilgrim churches. we would have a community of monks that were partly engaged in agriculture and partly in the service of the Christian pilgrims and visitors. One of them is currently called “the Governor’s House. as they were visited by pilgrims on their way to or from Mount Sinai (Figueras 1995). Abba is a title mostly applied to monks. and a three-arched porch connects the two. Perhaps it had not been built with this purpose. George” in Mitzpe Shivta (above). was once abducted by a group of Saracens and sold in the market of Sobata (PG 79. 13). who were certainly frequent in this church. 17×14 m). as we realized in the case of the hegoumenoi at Nessana (above. seems to indicate that. after the discovery of the invocation to the “God of St. 161). the riches of its internal decorations. Another well-known case is that of Nilus. 644 C.v. s.44 If this was true. and so we have to interpret many of the churches in the Byzantine Negev. As for the north church of Sobata. 45. It is a three-absidal basilica (c. probably when the church was built. We have already seen that this identification is no more probable. it had been transformed into one. built 43. see Mayerson 1963. a series of workshops have been interpreted as belonging to the local monastic community (Segal 1986).43 Outside the church. with Christian symbols decorating the lintel of the main gate (Phot. I would rather call the complex a community building.). 674-683. Indeed. who died on the 1st of April.E. who was living with him in a hermitage. in the course of time. 44. a monastery. so as to receive the right payment or the appropriate quantity of wine produced.45 Central church (Fig. 29). judging by the presence of the baptistry. has no compartments around the threshing pavement.42 Another one in the atrium of the church is that of a son of Abbot Themos. . That previous inspection was purposeless if the grapes to be pressed were brought from vineyards belonging to one and the same community.E.

the scholar has the right to suggest the intepretation of certain archaeological remains along the same line. Fig. 61). and have everything in common” (Sozomenos. I. 46.46 No epigraphic evidence for the presence of monks in this central church has been preserved. 47. being the commemoration of a new paving of the church under Bishop George and the Archdeacon and economus Peter (Negev 1981. is well known in ancient monastic architecture. Stephen.D. the holy bishop of Rhinocorura (today’s El-‘Arish) in North Sinai (Sozomen. 1389-90 . apparently. 15. was published with relation to this church (Negev 1981. in PG 67. the other much nearer to our region. Knowing the use that is commonly referred only to Augustin of Hippo in North Africa. Also here the epigraphy does not help to see any connection with monks. 639. On the basis of that historical reality. fruit of the spontaneous initiative of inspired people. Epist 63. such as Sobata. A single Parish priest with his family would certainly not need such a house. it is possible that here. is from A. Situated to the east of the open pull of the town. in the fifth century. 15. Actually. FIGUERAS as shelters for the community in case of danger. V. we must be allowed to imagine a group of clergy living together in community of goods and sitting at the same table. Church History V. even if there is no literary or epigraphic evidence for it. 5). Church History. PG 67. the case of Melas. this basilica (19×14. These examples. 7-9). Indeed. where monks and nuns took shelter during the attack by the Pelagians. an invocation to St. no. and maybe around the central church too. 30). however. rather than a community of monks of the traditional kind. 1389-90). According to a graffito detected on a wall at its entrance attesting to the frequent visits by pilgrims (Figueras 1994. one around bishop Eusebius of Vercelli (Ambrosius. 70). The text of Sozomenos concerning Rhinocolura towards the end of the fourth century is convincing: “The clergy of this church dwell in one house. besides the very well-known example of Augustin’s clergy. Stephen. 62. However. this church was very probably dedicated to St. A case in point in Palestinian monasticism is the tower in the monastery built by Jerome and Paula in Bethlehem towards the end of the fourth century. possibly the origin of the whole urban center of Sobata.440 P. no. two other cases are known of the same kind of phaenomenon.30 m) is probably the oldest of the three churches. Its only dated inscription. sit at the same table. only a short inscription on a abacus of stone capital.47 could have been imitated in other towns as well. the architecture of the mansion attached to the northern side of the church seems to demand here also the presence of a small community of church personnel. 4. South church (Fig.

MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 441 Fig. central church and monastery complex (Negev 1988. south church and monastic complex (‘Eini 1986. 97). Fig. [Shivta] 10). . 30 Sobata. 29 Sobata.

. Beit-Arieh (HA 1979. 253. Peter has blessed us. I will refer to an ostrakon found by the American expedition in the ruins of Sobata (Meimaris 1986. Our God. let us remember that here. to the discovery of this unusual Greek text which I copied myself in situ. Nimrod Negev.) cannot but be monastic. even though agriculture certainly occupied some of the monks. in Transjordan (Meimaris 1986. I take this opportunity to thank Mr. 14) The ruins of a Byzantine monastery were discovered upon the ruins of an Israelite fortress in this remote site of the north-east Negev desert. 1267). monastic life was of a different kind than those of the desert coenobia and laurae so typical of the Judean desert and existing also in some points of the Negev. Alon in 1979 and was successively and/or contemporaneously excavated in several seasons by A. Relatively small communities of clergy and/or monks lived around Parish churches. 105). FIGUERAS As a complement to the review of epigraphic and archaeological hints to the presence of monks in Sobata. Tel ‘Ira (map ref. 34). Sergius in Nessana (Pap. 189). Meimaris 1986. because he was not a priest. ab[b]a. Apart from the interesting fact that a member of the clergy. today a member of the Israel Antiquities Authority. son of Victor. when he was still my student. An inscription. presbyter of Sobata. but it includes a small chapel. More problematic is the reference to a certain “Abba Victor. 148. acknowledging to a certain “Abbot John. 33. Also in Sobata. the monks would hold the boys-schools and thus maintain the cultural level of the civil community. no. in the fragmentary mosaics at the entrance of the chapel. no other church or chapel seems to have been dedicated to the memory of the Apostle Peter in ancient Palestine. for having called my attention. 14). The plan of the monastery has never been published.”48 48. Peter: “Our God has blessed us.52. lector. dedicated to the spiritual service of their flocks and also of the numerous pilgrims who attracted by famous relics and shrines (particularly. we realise that here the title “abbot” (lit. as in Nessana. but there was one in Rihab. The site was first surveyed by D. in dat. a courtyard and several rooms (Phot.442 P.” who appears among ten other contributors in an account of donations to the monastery of St. Summarizing the hints of the monks’ presence in Sobata. although the low clergy. linked it with a special veneration to St. 79. those of the north church). Except for the “House of Peter” in Capernaum.” for having performed nine parts of his duty in cleaning the cistern. though not exclusively.071) (Phot. 1981. today irreparably damaged. Biran. is seen performing compulsory public duty. as in most other cases in the Negev. and I.

the so-called Nestorian writing.069) (Fig. Aharoni in the sixties. Tel Masos monastery was also established close to the ruins of an ancient Israelite city. 32 and 33). as in many of the ancient temples in Egypt. as they . a whole theory was formed regarding the foundation date of the building. which should not be dated to the late Byzantine but to the ‘Ummayad period. it is not thinkable that during the rigid Orthodox Byzantine regime. and there was plenty water in the old cisterns. the late Paul Maiberger (ibid. The fact that it had been established upon and among the ruins of an ancient city is not surprising. The same had occurred in some of the Herodian palaces in Palestine (Massada. The only doubtful thing about this place is the interpretation given to it by the excavators. and it was preceded in the same site by other settlements since the Chalcolithic period. The identification of this complex of chapel. certainly very similar to most of the monasteries in the Judean desert. p. those graffiti had been written not in Palestinian Syriac characters. The Muslims would apparently have been much more generous and large than the local Christian authorities. All the necessary elements for the life and maintenance of a monastic community are there. 158ff). An Israelite city and Byzantine monastery were later excavated in 1972-1975 by a German-Israeli expedition. The monastery ruins consisted of a building centered around a courtyard (Figs. whose identification is not yet definitely solved.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 443 The presence of a monastery in such a remote place is a good indication of the kind of life they were pursuing. Tel Masos (Khirbet el Meshash) (map ref.. What one can say about this theory is that the presence of some unclear graffiti in Nestorian script (not even Nestorian in contents. a Nestorian monastery would have been allowed to be founded in Palestinian lands. as the ruins furnished good stone for the building. but in north Syrian script. 31) In a way similar to Tel ‘Ira. The chapel has a rectangular apse. and particularly by the publisher of Syriac graffiti. it was said. The site was discovered by the Israeli survey headed by the late Y. on whose stones some graffiti written in Syriac were reported. To his mind. Herodion. 140. courtyard and crypt as a monastery is not a matter of doubt. Indeed. On an angle of the same courtyard is a burial crypt with several burial places for more than one body. rooms. Hyrcania). As a result. and the results were properly published in an extensive two-volume report (FritzKempinski 1983). This city lay on the banks of Nahal Beersheva.

31 Tel Masos. .444 P. FIGUERAS Fig. plan of monastery (Fritz-Kempinski 1983).

such as pottery. on the road to Arad. 34) This site lies some 20 km east of Beersheva. All the criteria normally taken into consideration for dating the building as Byzantine. suggested isometric reconstruction of chapel and monastery (Fritz-Kempinski 1983). The recent survey seems also to confirm this view 49. 149. excavator of the site and today director of the German Archaeological Institute in Jerusalem. and then occupied for about one century. the ruins of a square building were interpreted by Woolley and Lawrence (1914/15) without doubt as a monastery. it is almost inconceivable that a new monastery was planned and built. Tel Yeshua’ (Tel es-Sawa) (map ref. On the tel. V. in such a remote place as Tel Masos. include only personal names and doubtful words) is certainly not enough to establish a dating. are there. as it is claimed. as expressed to the present writer in private communication.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 445 Fig. Fritz. 32-33 Tel Masos. This is the authorized opinion of Prof.49 One must accept that. dismantled and inconsiderately destroyed all over the Negev.076) (Fig. in the moment when all the Christian settlements till then flourishing with their churches and institutions. . and has been identified with a place where a group of Jews settled on their return from the Babilonian exile (Neh 11:26). were being abandoned.

which had one apse only. 89. 34 Tel Yeshu’a. 2). It had a church on its northern side and a room complex on the south.*61). plan of the site (Govrin 1991.446 P. FIGUERAS Fig. . 88-89. was paved with white mosaic. The church. (Govrin 1992.

Even if part of the building was used as a fort. I would like to offer the results of this schematic research in a systematic and practical way. such as Mitzpe Shivta (above). 3.) Tel Masos (arch. as happened in other places. ?) Óorvat Kuseife (arch. who see in them a round Herodian tower among other buildings that were in use during the Roman and Byzantine period. If Woolley and Lawrence saw the church. Monastic or clergy communities around churches in towns: .) 6. church no. it is superfluous to point out that there is archaeological as well as written evidence of the existence of monks and monasteries in the Byzantine Negev. the other part could serve as dwellings to a group of monks. Monastery near town: Nessana. ?) Tel ‘Ira (arch. Isolated monasteries: Aila region (lit. whose remains could later have been destroyed and dismantled.) Mitzpe Shivta (arch. Summary Trying now to compare the results obtained with the purposes we had set to us at the start of this study. nothing stands against their interpretation. 6 (nunnery ?) (arch. gathering in a general way the existing data under some significant headings: 1. The Herodian tower could easily have been included in the monastic complex.) Hermit’s cave: Wadi Mo’eile˙ (archaeological evidence) Laurae: ‘Ein ‘Avdat (arch. + papyri ?) 7. and it is difficult to verify the truth. ?) Elusa region (nuns) (lit. Excavations have not been conducted at the site. evid. Rather.MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 447 It must be said that this interpretation of the ruins from the Byzantine period has not been accepted by more recent archaeologists. ?) 5. ?) Óorvat So’a (arch. Monks in Third Palestine in general (literary evidence) Monasteries in Third Palestine in general (lit.) Óorvat Bodeda (arch.) Tel Yeshua’ (arch. 2. + lit. 4.) Elusa (lit.

Among their rangs there were writers of renown (Elusa).) “Monk” (monachos) in Nessana (pap. FIGUERAS Birosaba (arch. + epigr.) “Virgin of God” in Oboda (epigr. north church (arch. but also for its religious and cultural education (Nessana). Mampsis (epigr.). + lit.). Tel Masos). .).) “Solitary” (hesychastes) in Elusa (lit.) “Old Man” (geron) in Oboda (epigr. + epigr. Mitzpe Shivta.) “Monastery of women” (matronikia ?) in Nessana (pap.) “Laura” in Elusa (lit. If some of them lived in absolute separation from secular affairs (‘Ein ‘Avdat. but another monastery had become well-known because a great monk had lived there (Aila). central church (arch. others were totally involved in the social life of the communities (Nessana). there is no doubt that.). church no.) Ru˙eibeh. They were in great part responsible.).) “Hegumenos” in Nessana (epigr. Some lived in remote cenobitic monasteries (Tel ‘Ira. church no.) “Our Mother” in Nessana (epigr. + epigr. Some of them were active in agriculture (Nessana. + epigraphy ?) Nessana. others had been rich members of famous city-councils (Nessana). south church (arch. others in communities around the church parishes (Sobata. + papyri) “Abbas” in Birosaba (lit. Terms: “Monastery” (mone) in Nessana (pap. + papyri) Nessana.) Despite the difficulties of interpretation of some of these data. Ru˙eibeh.) Oboda. south church (arch. There was a small monastery of poor nuns living on charity in the middle of the desert (Elusa). ?) Mampsis. + epigr. also the Negev desert was heavily populated by monks during the Christian centuries. western church (arch. Oboda (epigr. Mo’eile˙). 3 (arch.) Sobata. others took care of the pilgrims and passers-by (Nessana. north church (arch.448 P.+ pap. Sobata).).) Sobata.) “Monastery of women” in Elusa region (lit. not only for the Christianization of the local population (Elusa). Oboda). Sobata (epigr.) “Archimandrites” in Third Palestine in general (lit. Sobata (epigr.) 8. Elusa (lit. Nessana (epigr.) Sobata. 1 (arch. Sobata).

Wiesbaden. Oxford. Bruins H. with map. Avi-Yona M. 265276. London (reprint 1983). 1990.” in D. III. “Monasteries and Churches in the Judean Desert in the Byzantine Period.) 1944.-M. Palestine and Its Transformations. .” Boletín de la Asociación Española de Orientalistas (Madrid). (ed. “Exploration in Eastern Palestine. 1903a. vol. Paris. 1). (ed. 1985. 1986. Colt H. “Inscriptions grècques de Bersabée.” in Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land.D.J. Excavations at Nessana.” in Segal 1986. Figs. Essays in Honor of V. Glueck N. Burkhardt J. map.” in Acts of the XII International Congress of Christian Archaeology. Christianity in the Holy Land (Studia Oecumenica Hierosolymitana. 1911.” Qadmoniot 22 (87-88) 58-87 (Hebrew).MONKS AND MONASTERIES IN THE NEGEV DESERT 449 Let us finally remember that this monasticism. 1-90. 445-617. was well known to the Church of the sixth century. “La grotte de Moueileh. 425. 1984.) 1962. Fritz V. Byzantine Inscriptions from Beer-sheva and the Negev (Negev Museum Publ. Festugière A. Figueras P. Les Moines d’Orient. Figueras P. 1993. pp.” LA 36.A. 1962/63. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen auf Hirbet al-Msas . Figueras P.Tel Masos 1972-1975. Gazetteer of Roman Palestine. “Mitzpe Shivta. Figueras P. “List of the Byzantine Monasteries in the Judean Desert. Jerusalem. 600-602. No. 1822. till today unfairly ignored by Church historians. “Pilgrims to Sinai in the Byzantine Negev. Figueras P. Hirschfeld I. Nijkerk.” AASOR 18-19. Jerusalem. 1982.J. Bonn. 1972. with map (in press).” RB 12. Abel F. 1-3. 2 vols. 1966b. with map. 149-154. The Church of the Gentiles in Palestine. which invited some of its representatives to attend the ecumenical council at Constantinople in 536.Questions and Answers (PO XXX/3). . Hadashot Arkheologiyot (1984) 76. 1995a. Chitty D. 1981. 207-247. “Three Dedicatory Inscriptions from the Beersheva Region. Jerusalem.” RB 12. Jerusalem. 1.J.. Beersheva. 1991. 1995b. 135-162. 97-108 (Hebrew). “Monasteries of the Judean Desert in the Byzantine Period. London.” in Tsafrir 1993. B. Avi-Yonah. 2).. 1977. Hirschfeld I.” Estudios Bíblicos (Madrid) 45. “Arqueología cristiana en el desierto del Neguev. figs. 1983. Jerusalem.-J. Figueras P. 1989. pp. 1986. 1939. An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire. Barsanuphius and John . 1-3. The Madaba Map. 16. Corbo. 1986. Boston. The Desert a City. “The Christian History of the Negev and Northern Sinai. Govrin Y.-M. Bagatti. “New Inscriptions from the South” (in press). “Beersheva in the Roman-Byzantine Period.Kempinski A.C. Map of Nahal Yattir (139). Travels in Syria and the Holy Land. Govrin Y. Chitty D. Desert Environment and Agriculture in the Central Negev and KadeshBarnea During Historical Times. Figueras P. Hirschfeld I. 1966a (ed.). 1987. 147-168. 1903b. vol.). Jerusalem. Huntington E.L. Pau Figueras Ben Gurion University of the Negev Bibliographic References Abel F. Paris. Jaeger (ed. Baumgarten Y. M.

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