The Sea-coast

86. Lod also Lydea, called also Diospolis - (Lydda, Lud)

Town in the coastal plain of Israel, 10 mi. (16 km.) S.E. of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Lydda first appears in the Canaanite period (1465 B.C.E.) when it is mentioned in Thutmosis III's list of towns in Canaan. According to the Talmud (Meg. 1:3-4a; TJ, Meg. 1:1), the city was fortified "in the days of Joshua the son of Nun," but according to the Bible, it was built by Shemed, a Benjamite (I Chron, 8:12). It appears with Ono and Hadid in the list of places resettled after the return from the Babylonian Exile (Ezra 2:33; Neh. 7:37), and it occurs with Ono and Ge-Harashim in the list of Benjamite settlements (Neh. 11:35).
In the Hellenistic period the town was outside the boundaries of Judea; it was detached from Samaria and given to Jonathan the Hasmonean by Demetrius II in 145 B.C.E. (I Macc. 11:34; Jos., Ant., 13:127), becoming a toparchy of Judea (Jos., Wars, 3:55). In Maccabean times it was a purely Jewish town; Julius Caesar restored the privileges of the Jews of Lydda (Jos., Ant., 14:208). In the Roman period it was counted as a village, although it was as populous as a city (Jos., Ant., 20:130). In 43 B.C.E. its inhabitants were sold into slavery by Cassius, the governor of Syria (Jos., Ant., 14:275). Quadratus, the Syrian governor in the time of Claudius, executed several Jews there; Cestius Gallus, the Roman proconsul of Syria, burned it on his way to Jerusalem in 66 C.E. It was within the command of John the Essene at the beginning of the First Jewish War (66-70 C.E.); Vespasian occupied it in 68 C.E.
According to talmudic sources, Lydda was situated on the boundary of the Shephelah and the coastal plain, one day's journey from Jerusalem; other sources call the plain around it the Shephelah of Lydda (Ma'as. Sh. 5:2). The town flourished between the First and Second Jewish Wars. It had a large market; cattle were raised in the area; and textile, dyeing, and pottery industries were established. A Christian community existed there in the time of Peter (Acts 9:32-35). It was the seat of a Sanhedrin; famous talmudic scholars, such as R. Tarfon, R. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, R. Akiva, Joshua b. Levi, Judah b. Pazi, Eleazar bar Kappara, and Hanina bar Hama taught there. Among its synagogues was one specially maintained by a community of Tarsians. After the war of Bar-Kokhba (132-135), Jews remained in Lydda, though its agricultural hinterland had been destroyed. The patriarch R. Judah I leased estates in its plain.
In 200, the emperor Septimius Severus established a Roman city at Lydda, calling it Colonia Lucia Septimia Severa Diospolis. Its territory consisted of the combined toparchies of Lydda and Thamna. The town remained partly Jewish. It took part in the revolt against the emperor Gallus in 351 and was punished when the revolt failed; according to one Midrash, out of ten measures of poverty in the world, Lydda had nine. The Samaritan element became more powerful in Byzantine times, although the town, part of Palaestina Prima, was predominantly Christian and had a bishop. Justinian built a church there. It was the legendary birthplace of St. George; hence its name Georgiopolis in late Byzantine and crusader sources.

Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Lydda"

Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 54-55)
Two colonnaded streets are visible: the first one runing from east to west and ending at a gate -if it is a gate and not the entrance of a building-, another one like a semicircle round the front of a large church, in all probability the basilica of St. George. The second church north of and parallel to the main street might have been devoted to St. Aeneas and St. Dorcas, although a church of these saints is not attested in Byzantine literature.In the southern wall of the church just mentioned we note three pillars of white cubes: columns or another street parallel to the cardo maximus? One profane building is seen north of the northern church, and three houses clustered south of St. George's basilica.

Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 61-62)
The city is not walled. It has two colonnaded streets, one straight from east to west, the other forming a semicircle round a prominent church. The straight street seems to end in a gate opening out to the west, towards the road to Jaffa. Another big church is visible north to and parallel with the straight street. A building is visible beyond the northern church; another three buildings are seen clustered south of the main basilica. The latter is undoubtedly that of St. George, the cult of which at that particular place is first attested by Theodosius (4, ed. Geyer, p.139: ubi sanctus Georgius martyrizatus est); St. Jerome knew nothing about it (cf. Peregrinatio Paulae V, ed. Tobler, p. 31). The other church might be that of Dorcas and Eneas who were worshipped there before St. George (ib.). The name Diospolis became official with Septimius Severus, but the form Lidda (derived from the Biblical Lod) appears alone in the Bordeaux pilgrim (ed. Geyer, p. 25). St. Jerome (Peregrinatio Paulae, V, ed. Tobler, p.31) refers to 'Lyddam versam in Diospolis'. Both names are also attested by Theodoretus. (Hist. Eccl. 1, 4, Griech.-christ. Schriftsteller 19, p. 27). It should be noted that Eusebius has omitted to include Lod in his Onomasticon, and only refers to it by the name of Diospolis as the point of reference for various places within its territory (Aditha 24, 24; Thamna 8, 14; Arimathea 32, 21 and 144, 28; Modiin 132, 16) apparently under the influence of the road map he was using. The appearance of Lod on the Madaba map is an addition made by the author of the map on his own.

Israel Roll ("The Roads in Roman-Byzantine Palaestina and Arabia", in The Madaba Map Centenary, 112)
Several sites depicted on the mosaic map of Madaba indicate that its makers used data drawn from road-maps and itineraria. Between Jerusalem and Jaffa, a series of places known to be located along the two connecting highways between them, are shown on that map. These are: Bethoron, Kaperouta, Modeim, Adita and Lydda/Diospolis, which bordered, in that sequence, the northern highway - known as the Bethoron road. Also are mentioned Nicopolis, Enataba and Betoannaba, that belonged to the parallel southern road, via Emmaus. The very mentioning of two mile-stations, the fourth (to tetarton), and the ninth (to ennaton), clearly indicate a road-map origin. Those two sites could be identified with two traditional road-stations of the southern highway which possessed plenty of water, that is, Colonia (today Motza) located at the distance of four miles from Jerusalem, and Kiriat Jearim (today Abu Ghosh) - at nine miles from it.
(See also the complete article)

Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 117)
Lod or Lydda itself is never mentioned under this name by Eusebius, though he used Diospolis as a point of reference for various places. It is a curious oversight, since Lod, besides being an important centre and crossroads, appears in the Old Testament as well as in Acts 9:32-35, where St. Peter's healing of the paralytic, Aeneas, is narrated; the miracle was commemorated by Paula and Jerome in passing through the town. The map remedies Eusebius' omission. (See also the complete article)

Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem - in the press)

Christianity in Lydda-Diospolis

The Christians mention Lydda often in connection with the cult of St. George. In the following notes, however, rather than deal with the martyr's cult, I wish to present the history of Christianity in the city.
Foundation of the Church. The Jews of Lydda who went to Jerusalem for the feasts might have had occasion to meet Jesus and hear his preach. The fact is that when St. Peter, in the years 37-39, undertook his apostolic journey in the plain, taking advantage of the easing-up of the persecution after the conversion of St. Paul, coming to Lydda he found some believers there. St. Luke writes in Acts 9:32-35: 'Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived in Lydda. There he found a man called Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him: 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.' And immediately he rose. And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.'
But who were the first evangelizers? According to a tenth-century source, preserved in Georgian but said to have been translated from Syriac, it would have been Joseph of Arimathea. This source states that Joseph had founded a church dedicated to the Mother of God at Lydda; however, at present we have no proofs of the reliability of this document (P. Peeters, Le tréfond oriental de l 'Hagiographie byzantine, Brussels 1950, 209). The same must be said of an information found in a late commentary of De septuaginta Domini discipulis (a work falsely ascribed to Dorotheus of Tyre, who died at the beginning of the fourth century), quoted in the seventh-century Chronicon Paschale (PG 92, 1065; and cf. ibid., 524 for pseudo-Dorotheus). According to this text, Zenas, a disciple of St. Paul's, would had been bishop of Lydda .
The Jewish Christians. After the Jewish war which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, some Jewish teachers of the Law retired to Lydda so as to be able to continue their studies. The Jewish sources indicate that these scholars had contact with Christians of Jewish stock. Among these scholars residing at Lydda was Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, of whom S. Mendelson writes (The Jewish Encyclopedia V,114): 'During the persecutions of the Judeo-Christians, he was considered a sectarian and hence brought before a penal tribunal. Having been asked, 'How can a man as wise as you think such things?' he replied with simplicity: 'The judge is just'; and the judge, believing that Eliezer had retracted his Christianity, acquitted him while Eliezer had understood God for 'the just one. ' Later scholars have discussed the story, inquiring the question, which tribunal might have been involved. In any case, the fact remains that Eliezer had contact with the Christians and had been impressed by their teaching, at least on some points.
Rabbi Tarfon also lived in Lydda. Ochser writes ( The Jew. Enc. XII, 57): "He felt extremely bitter against those Jews who had converted to the new faith, going so far as to teach that their books had to be destroyed should they ever fall into anyone's hands. He thus had no scruples about destroying the gospels even though they often contained the name of God." Aqiba, the famous Rabbi who recognized Bar Kosiba Messiah of Israel during the revolt against Emperor Hadrian, also dwelt in Lydda. In 135, in the course of this second Jewish war, according to the Saint Justin, a contemporary of the events, there were also some martyrs among the Jewish Christians, because , they refused to fight in the war of independence, since they could not acknowledge Bar Kosiba as Messiah. These were the historical circumstances in which the Jewish Christians of Lydda lived in the first centuries. Their names have not come down to us.
The Bishops of Diospolis. About the year 200 the Roman rulers of Palestine changed the name Lydda to Diospolis (City of Jove). Possibly, as they did elsewhere, they introduced pagan inhabitants so as to transform the character of the city. Thus we meet Christians of Gentile origin already replacing the others. In Diocletian's persecution a deacon Romulus was arrested in Lydda, and having remained faithful to Christ, he was killed at Caesarea in 305. Also Maximus, a priest living there, had to suffer persecutions. They plucked out one of his eyes and scorched his legs (Eusedbius, De martyribus Palaestinae III, 3; Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica II, 20)
We are unable to determine when the first Gentile-Christian bishop was installed in the city, but it is certain that in 325 the bishop was Aetius, who took part in the Coucil of Nicea. He had semi-Arian leanings and was a friend of the metropolitan, Eusebius of Caesarea. On Aetius' death, which occurred in about 332, the bishop of Jerusalem ordained bishop Maximus, the above-mentioned confessor of the faith; but then, notwithstanding the regret of the Diospolitans, he deemed it opportune to bring him to Jerusalem so as to provide himself with an orthodox successor.
Another known fourth-century bishop of Lydda is Dionysius, who is known as a staunch friend of St. Jerome. When the saint was excommunicated with his Bethlehem community by John II, archbishop of Jerusalem, Jerome sent to Lydda catechumens he had instructed so that his friend the bishop could baptize them on Easter. The friendship between the two is confirmed by a letter sent by Dionysius to Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, and preserved among Jerome's letters (No. 94) in which he shows himself a strenuous anti-Origenist. Dionysius took part in the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381.
In 415 a council presided over by John II, bishop of Jerusalem, was held in Diospolis in which Pelagius succeeded in having his teachings absolved from the charge of heresy.
Later we find at Lydda Bishop Photinus who participated in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and Bishop Apollonius who attended the Council of Jerusalem held in 518.
After the Arab occupation the monk Eustathius was bishop of Lydda and ruled nine years. He had been abbot of the monastery of Castellion, near the Laura of St. Sabas, and was a disciple of St. Stephen the Sabaite.
As usual, the bishops concerned themselves not only with the pastoral care of the faithful but also about the building of churches. At Lydda the latter activity is attested by a Greek inscription carved on a column, now engaged in a pilaster of the mosque which has replaced the church. Perhaps the inscription is incomplete and was followed by another. In any event, according to Clermont-Ganneau who copied and published it (ARP II, 107), it says in poetic style: '+ The worshipful pastors who lsit at the head of this city, for long time past illuminated by Christ, having adorned this illustrious temple.' The inscription refers to the church erected in the Byzantine period.
The Madaba mosaic, laid out in the sixth century on the basis of old itineraries, clearly shows what Lydda was like in the Byzantine period: a city without wall, with a colonnaded street flanked by two churches: a large one to the right a smaller one to the left, both with a basilica plan and no dome. The church on the right has a semicircular colonnaded plaza in front. The inscription above the vignette reads: 'Lod, or Lydea, also (called) Diospolis.' One church must be identtified with St. George's and it is presumably the one later rebuilt by the Crusaders and which has come down to us; the other possibly commemorated the miracle worked by St. Peter on Aeneas, or could simply be the cathedral.
The martyrs Eunapius and Andrew. The Jacobite Arabic Synaxary commemorates on the 23rd day of Thoth (September 20) the two martyrs Eunapius and Andrew 'sons of notables of Lydda' (PO 1, 202-203) From their youth they had been monks in a convent of Syria (Esh-Sham); then they went to Egypt where the former was made a bishop and the latter, a priest. Under Julian the Apostate they suffered torture and became martyrs.

Sketch of St. George complex (el-Khader).

1. Church of the Byzantine Period (red), now mosque. 2. Crusader church (green), now Greek-Orthodox. 3. Mosques. 4. Greek inscription on one column in the mosque (according to Clermont-Ganneau)

Cult of St. George. No one knows who introduced the cult of St. George in Lydda-Diospolis or how. The oldest testimonies appear in the sixth century and attest to the city being the place where the saint was martyred and where his relics were preserved. In the itinerary of the pilgrim Theodosius, which according to scholars was written in about the year 530, we read: 'In Diospolis where St. George was martyred there is his body and many wonders are wrought' (De situ Terrae Sanctae, ch.4, CCSL 175, 116). The same information is provided in the itinerary of the anonymous pilgrim of Piacenza who visited Palestine in about 570 (Ps. Antoninus, Itinerarium, ch. 25, CCSL 175, 142). Thus the sixth-century tradition consistently attests to the existence of a church and a tomb. According to the Calendar of Jerusalem Church the annual feast was held on November 3: it commemorated the dedication of the church and the deposition of the relics (Garitte, Calendrier, 374-375).
The Piacenza pilgrim (loc.cit) tells us that 'on the road, not far from Lydda, a marble column stands in the middle of the street. When the Lord was being brought to be scourged at it, the column fled, carried off in a cloud, and was put down in this place. The proof that this is true is the fact that the column has no base, on which it should be founnded, but stands on the ground and is unstable. On its top is planted an iron cross and a ladder allows access to the top and there many lamps and incense-burners are placed. In this place the possessed are cleansed, for in this districts many miracles (virtutes) of holy George are shown.'
Exactly a century later, the priest Arculphus visited Palestine. Seemingly he did not come to Lydda, but when he was in Constantinople he heard of a miraculous column at which St. George had been scourged, and which was kept in Diospolis. He was told new stories about the saint. A legend said that this column was in the home of a Christian and an image of St. George was painted on it. A knight tried to hit the figure and his spear entered the column as though it were made of snow. On seeing this the knight was converted (De locis sanctis III, 4, CCSL 175, 229-231).
In 723-26 the pilgrim Willibaldus visited Palestine and came to Lydda to venerate St. George there (Hodoeporicon, ch. 25, ed. Tobler, Descriptiones, 36). Not only did the city still have a residing bishop at the time, but there was even a stylite living there, named Julian (Oriens Christianus III, 65). Moreover, the monk Andrew-called Andrew of Crete because he was bishop of Gortyna, i.e. metropolitan of Crete, at the end of the seventh century- tells us that at Diospolis there was 'an image not made by the hand of man, on a most clear stone plaque, showing the figure of the Mother of God, three cubits tall, venerated from the time of the Apostles to our day, in the vaulted temple built by them, to the west, made so masterfully pictured as if it were made by the hand of a painter, her purple mantle and her tunic, the hands and the face and all the aspect of her likeness, as can be seen preserved to this very day' (De sanctarum imaginum veneratione, PG 97, 1301-1304). Andrew goes on saying that Julian the Apostate had sent men to see and examine it. Leaving aside the legends that flourished about these images, one must admit that something indeed was venerated in Lydda in the early times of the Arab occupation of Palestine.
Naturally the new masters could not tolerate this devotion; and, having created their new headquarters at Ramle, a few kilometers from Lydda, they sought to shift the settlement from one place to another. This can be gathered from Moslem sources. Ya'qubi in 870 writes that Caliph Suliman b. Abdel Malik forced the people of Lydda to move to Ramle and to achieve this goal he had their houses torn down. The city was destroyed (Marmadji, Textes, 82). At this time begins the Moslem tradition according to which the Antichrist is to be slain by Christ on the Last Day at the gate of Lydda
The detail about the Antichrist did not escape the scholars and in 1887 it was the subject of two notes in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (C.R.Conder, PEF 1887, 148-149; G. St. Clair, ibid., 239). Conder observed that the legend could have sprung from Jewish (Talmudic) sources, while St. Clair maintained that it had ancient pagan antecedents, for the battle of St. George and the dragon meant nothing else but the eternal conflict between good and evil, and the final victory was believed to be destined to come with Christ at the Last Day.
The list of religious houses compiled about 808 on behalf of Charlemagne (Commemoratorium de casis Dei, ed. Tobler, Descriptiones, 77-84) does not mention Lydda, but its silence can perhaps be explained otherwise than by the destruction of the shrine of St. George. In fact, the monastery and tomb of the saint are mentioned in 870 by Bernard the Monk, unless he copied the information from some ealier itinerary (ed. Tobler, Descriptiones, 91)
In the Crusader Period. On the base of archival data R. Röhricht (ZDPV 10 [1887], 27-29) collects the names of many persons who lived in Lydda during the Crusader rule. He lists 13 bishops who lived between 1099 and 1286,15 canons and many other subalterns, all of western origin. Under the new domination, the bishopric no longer bore the title of Diospolis but that of Lydda and Ramle, according to the terminoly introduced by the Arabs. The Crusaders were naturally attracted by the cult of St. George and decided to rebuild the church. In 1177 a Greek pilgrim, John Phocas, passed through and interviewed the inhabitants. And so he writes: 'A large church of the great martyr St. George can be seen there, in the very place where he was born and underwent the greatest fights for his piety, and where also is found his holy tomb. The church is elongated and in the apse of the presbytery, under the pavement of the holy altar, the mouth of the tomb can be seen, blocked up with white marble. I was told that the present Latin bishop tried to open the mouth of the tomb, and having lifted the plaque that blocks it, he found a large cave, and in the inner part of it the grave of the saint was discovered. He tried to open this too, but a flame burst forth from the tomb, which half-burned one of the men and killed the other on the spot' (PG 133, 959-962). Apparently a legend was already forming; however, the item about the cave under the altar can be actual fact and leads us to believe that St. George's cult could have begun with a tomb situated, as was customary, at the fringe of the town. The present sanctuary would thus have been the occasion for the town's relocating near the tomb, as happened in other places in Palestine; for example, at Lazarus's tomb in Bethany. Conceivably the Crusaders had rebuilt the church on the traditional site.
With the fall of the Latin kingdom, the church was abandoned by the Latins and they were replaced by the local clergy. Unfortunately, the restrictions imposed by the Moslems on their coming back as conquerors did not permit the church to be repaired, and thus it gradually fell into ruin. In 1347, when Brother Niccolò da Poggibonsi passed through, the church was still in good condition. He wrote (Ch. 8): 'One mile from Ramle there is a settlement called Lydda, and here there is a beautiful monastery with a beautiful painted and decorated church. And under the main altar there is a stone with a hole in the middle, and there St. George was beheaded. And in said church live Greek monks, and great indulgence for sins is granted to the pilgrim.
Also his contemporary Ludolphus of Sudheim (Descriptio Terrae Sanctae, Ch. 28, Archives de l'Orient Latine II, Parisa 1884, pag.?) saw the beautiful church, finely adorned with mosaics and marble, and, in the apse, the place where the saint had been decapitated. The difference between these pilgrims and those of the early Middle Ages is that the pierced stone in the apse no longer represents the opening of the tomb but the place of martyrdom.
On May 26, 1431, Mariano da Siena (Del Viaggio, 19) saw the beautiful church 'half dismantled;' in which were two altars: 'one of the Greeks, the other above the very place where St. George was behaeded. A Mass was said for the Christians there, and the Saracens stood watching without interference.'
On August 2, 1494, the Milanese canon Pietro Casola, after mentioning the beautiful church 'made of dressed stones' (Viaggio, 60), adds: 'It is venerated even by the Moors, according to what the Christians of the belt say, but I myself could not say in what way, because I saw the place quite desolate.' However, the local Christians were correct, as is shown by the fact that at that time the Moslems had built a mosque in a part of the church. The Moslem writer Mujir ed-Din, writing in 1496, attests to this: 'There was at Lydda a solidly built church with a large courtyard. The Christians had endowed it with many goods and they have a firm faith right up to our day. King Saladin destroyed it. May God have pity on him and may he be content! Lydda has a beautiful appearance. It is found in the vicinity of Ramle, on the north side, a short distance away. It has a venerated mosque which was a church built by the Greeks. It is surrounded by majesty and neatness, and has a tall minaret' (Marmadji, Textes, 191).
The Christians from the Crusaders to Our Times. With the fall of the Latin Kingdom, the native Christians inherited the sanctuary. The pilgrim Willbrand of Oldenburg, who visited the holy places in 1212, notes (Peregrinatio, ed. Laurent, 184): 'His body (St. George's) rests in a certain monastery of the Syrians near it'-that is, near Ramle, which he called St. George's birthplace.
The Russian pilgrim Grethenios who came to Palestine in 1400 observed that at Lydda 'there reside many Syrian Christians' (B. de Khitrowo, Itinéraires russes en Orient [Publications de la Société de l'Orient Latine, Série géographique V, Genève 1889], 168). In 1481 the Franciscan Father Paul Walter (Itinerarium, 108) noted that the Christians who live there say it is a place of indulgences. However, he adds, few pilgrims go to Lydda because it is out of the way and they must pay a toll to the Moors.
In the same year of 1481 the Dominican Father Faber expressly noted that there were Greeks in the town, or rather native Christians of the Greek rite; indeed, after describingd the church of St. George, partly transformed in a mosque, he adds that there are always two lamps burning in the church, 'cared for,' he says, "by the Greek Christians who live in the city' (ed. Hassler, I, 219)
In the following century Father Bonifacio da Ragusa also mentions the Christians living in Lydda, noting that they used to travel to Bethlehem the Sunday preceding the Assumption of the Virgin, along with all the other Christians of the Greek rite, to spend the night there commemorating Mary's death. In 1669 Father Mariano Morone (Terra Santa II, 82), describing the parishes held by the Greeks, lists also Lydda together with Ramle. Statistics for these years are unfortunately lacking and we must move along to the last century for find some data. The list made by the Greek Patriarchate in 1838 numbers 100 souls at Lydda, with two priests. According to the 1904 list the souls would have risen to 1000, but Karalevrsky, who re-edited it, suggested to correct the figure to 200. The official 1922 statistics have the following data: 921 Greek Orthodox, I Greek Catholic and 4 Latin Catholics; and the list made by the Latin Patriarchate in 1946 has 1100 Greeks and 250 Latins.
The latter opened a mission in 1846, but it did not develop much and it was not necessary to build a new church. The Latin church was located on the Ramle-Lydda road near the tomb of the prophet Simeon (Nebi Sim'an).
Archeological Researches. No regular excavations have ever been carried oud in the city so that we know practically nothing either about its wall or about the houses and the urban plan. Likewise, we know precious little about the religious buildings of the various periods. The only one known is the church of St. George.
In 1847 Father A. Bassi (Pellegrinaggio, II, 264-265) pointed out the 'Gothic' character of the building and gave an accurate description of it: 'The temple had three naves, ending in three apses, all alined, which gave the monument a rectangular form. The powerful square pillars which held up the three arches of each nave had an engaged column on each side, the same thickness for all its length, with a simple base without a pedestal. The capitals of the columns and the pillars continued across the whole wall of the central apse-the largest one-in the form of a frieze, on which a cornice rested: a little lower down ran an identical cornice. One arch alone remains intact on the epistle side: it is very slightly pointed. A large stump of wall, right in the middle of the presbytery, is pointed out as the place in which the head of the holy martyr is preserved. On one of the surviving pillars now rises the tower or minaret to which the Turkish santon climbs to announce the hour of prayer.'
In 1860 M. DeVogüé provided some critical notes on the buildings, seen in comparison with Crusader ones, in his well-known volume Les Églises de la Terre Sainte , also giving a sketch (pp.363-367). He saw the still-visible part of the church, that is, the central and northern apses, with some pillars belonging to the Crusader church. Later Clermont-Ganneau (ARP II, 102-108, 407) received permission to enter the mosque and, with the help of A. Lecomte du Noüy, he was able to offer a more complete and archeologically-minded plan of the ancient ruins (Fig. 64). Besides the Crusader church, he singled out a Byzantine apse which presently forms a kind of recess on the east side of the mosque, as well as some columns incorporated into the pillars of the mosque, which he considered in situ. Clermont-Ganneau thus maintained that there had been two churches, one beside the other, but built in different periods: the south one in the Byzantine period, and the other, in the Crusader period. His plan was reproduced in all the guidebooks of Palestine, because no one else has yet been able to examine the building more thoroughly. In the archeologist's view, the Byzantine church was dedicated to St. John the Baptist: he made this statement on the basis of a 'local tradition,' which we have not enough data to confirm.
However interesting Clermont-Ganneau's study is, it must nevertheless be considered no more than a beginning of research on Lydda, because excavations are lacking which could show us what survives of the city. Thus, for example, the same author remarks (RAO I, 276) that in the Baybars Bridge stones of Crusader workmanship were utilized, showing the usual masons' marks, which certainly came from some Crusader monument in Lydda. Considering that the church of St. George was reported in a passable state of preservation after Baybars' time, one is forced to conclude that these stones came from some othe monument or from buildings erected around the church.
The present church, partially rebuilt by the Greek Orthodox on the remains of the Crusader one, has no artistic pretensions but serves for worship. There is a cave under the apse whih has in the middle a cenotaph of the saint with the inscription: 'St: George, who carries the lance, 1871, under the Patriarch Cyril.' M. Beza (Lands of Many Religions, London 1934, 48-52) reproduces photos of the church and of this chamber, and reports that the archimandrite Neophytus explained to him that before the cenotaph was built there had been a cave where the women used to go to pray and to light candles in honour of St. George. Once a Moslem attempted to stop this, and St. George wounded him with his lance. This is the reason for the inscription.
A few abandoned houses near the church still bear Christian signs on their lintels. The one shown here is situated east of the church itself.
Ceremonies. Although the village is now almost completely Jewish, Christians, especially those of the Greek rite, gather at the spot on the feast and perform particular ceremonies. We note two of them: the killing of a lamb to fulfil a vow and the firt haircuts of little boys. Besides priests from Jerusalem, some diplomatic representatives and members of the Israeli Ministry of Cults usually take part in the festival (cf. CNI 12, 3 [1961], 5, and G. Rosenthal, Israel 5, 12 [1973], 39-45).
St. James the Dismembered. About 80 years ago, Clermont-Ganneau (Études d'archéologie Orientale II, Paris 1897,108-110) wrote that during a long stay in Lydda in 1871 he observed that to the east of the city there was a site called es-Saha esh-Shargieh which seemed to him to be part of the ancient necropolis of the city. Now, the Moslems venerated one Selman el-Farsy and the Christians Yaq'ub el-Mqatta el-Farsy; that is, St. James the Perisan, surnamed the dismembered one. He was martyred by the Persians in 421 and enjoyed a widespread cult in the East. Clermont-Ganneau suggested that there might once have been an oratory dedicated to this martyr, judging by the words el-Mqatta, which correspond to 'dismembered,' and Farsy, which means 'Persian.' Even at Clermont-Ganneau's time, however, no traces of such oratory were found.

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Lod, Lydda Diospolis, Georgiopolis", 171.

Map Section 7 Place Sources

logo logo

Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:40:14
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000