Crusader-era monastic seal unearthed in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM, May 27 (Xinhua) — A rare Crusader-era seal stamped by the Monastery of St. Sabas, an important leader of Christian monastic movement, has been excavated in Jerusalem, Israel’s Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.
Found in the Monastery of St. Sabas in Bayit VeGan neighborhood, the seal was unearthed a year and a half ago, but studies have only recently identified its unique history.
“Surprisingly, while processing the excavation a rare lead seal dating to the Crusader period came to light,” the Antiquities Authority said in a statement.
The 800 year-old seal is in excellent condition, the Antiquities Authority added. It shows a bearded bust of a saint wearing a himation and holding a cross in his right hand and the Gospel in his left hand. Surrounding it is a Greek inscription identifying the man as Saint Sabas. On the back of the seal appears another longer Greek inscription, which reads “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabas.”
The seal, or bulla as it is known in Latin, was affixed to letters, and was meant to ensure the document would not be opened by unauthorized persons.
Despite its importance to the history of Christianity in the Holy Land, this is the first time that archaeologists find a seal linked to St. Saba, also known by his Syriac name, Mar Saba.
According to Robert Kool of the Antiquities Authority, “The St. Sabas Monastery apparently played an important role in the affairs of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusader period maintaining a close relationship with the ruling royal family. The monastery had numerous properties and this farm may have been part of the monastery’s assets during the period.”
St. Sabas was one of the most influential leaders of the Christian monastic movements developing in the Judean Desert during the Byzantine period. Sabas established several monasteries, but his crowning achievement was the construction of the Monastery of St. Sabas, referred to as the “Great Laura” in the Byzantine period.
Sabas was greatly involved in local political and religious affairs and twice traveled on foot to the capital Constantinople to request assistance from the emperor for the country’s inhabitants. Sabas was canonized following his death and his name appeared among the list of Christian saints.