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The Good Samaritan
Byzantine Church
Planning the roof over the restored mosaic floor
OrdererThe Archaeological Staff Officer of Judea and Samaria
DurationDecember 2005 August 2006
Implemented by: Arch. Vardit Shotten-Hallel
Avner Hillman

The planning for the construction of a roof above the remains of the Byzantine church and the rooms situated its south was one of the phases in preparing the ‘Good Samaritan’ site for visits by the public. The site will serve as an open museum and thus it was decided to fully restore the mosaic floor in the church. The site, which is under the custodianship of the government supervisor of abandoned property (Block 68: Lot: part of the Sal’at ed-Dam lot, on land belonging to the village of Nebi Musa; part of al-Chen lot; part of Sha’ab Abu Daba’a lot, on land belonging to the village of ‘Anta), is located next to the Jerusalem-Dead Sea road, and is currently isolated from any other settlement. The ‘Good Samaritan’ site, or according to its Arabic name – Khan al-Khatrura (The Inn of the Hungry) – was probably first inhabited during the time of the Second Temple but only a few remains have survived from this period. According to Christian tradition it was in this place that the act of the Good Samaritan occurred, which is described in the New Testament (Luke 10, the Good Samaritan homily). A church (possibly even a monastery) was built there to commemorate the act during the Byzantine period, probably in the latter part of the sixth century CE. A khan was built at the site in the Crusader period, and was used continuously until the Ottoman period. In the Mamluk period the site served as a way station where riders for the Mamluk postal network changed their mounts. One can still see the stone hitches to which they tied the horses’ reins, set in the compound’s eastern perimeter wall. At the top of the hill north of the khan, a citadel (Castel Rouge) was built in the Crusader period that was meant to protect Christian pilgrims on their way from Jerusalem to the baptismal sites in the Jordan River and Dead Sea. The site was abandoned following the Battle of Karnei Hittin. Salah a-Din built a fortress on top of the Crusader citadel. Today one can see the remains of the moat that surrounded the fortress and parts of the vaults.
The Church. The church is 20 meters long by 11 meters wide. The remains include the base of the inside wall of the narthex and the bases of the two rows of columns that separated the aisles from the nave, with five columns in each row. All that remained from the building’s facades were the bases of the outer walls, the apse on the eastern side and the small rooms that flank it. The church’s mosaic floor was entirely restored under the supervision of the Conservation Department of the Antiquities Authority in 2005.
The Construction of the Roof. During the construction of the roof, which is meant to shelter the visitors to the site from the sun, our goal was to avoid damaging both the original and the restored remains. Thus we planned the frame of the roof to include a limited number of uprights, consisting of four rows of four wooden columns each. A fifth row of columns is meant to support the roof in the area of the rooms located east of the church compound.
The source of inspiration for the design of the roof is the type of roof that was used on churches from the Byzantine period: a roof pitched in two directions above the nave and two pitched roofs over the aisles. For the future display of the narthex, as well as above the apse, the covering will be a continuation of the main roof. The mosaics in the eastern rooms are to be covered by a roof with a single pitch.
The roofing was originally meant to be made of cloth but during the implementation phase was replaced with wood. Thus the roof protects the mosaic floor from both the sun and the rain.

To view the figures, click on the figure caption
Plan of the church structure

The roofing plan

The mosaic floor

View from the south toward the church during the work

Detail of a column during construction

Visitors to the church which is open to the public

site built by tetitu