Israel to move prison sitting atop earliest mosaic dedicated to Jesus

“This structure is interpreted as the oldest Christian prayer house in the world."

 Ancient mosaic in Megiddo (photo credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Ancient mosaic in Megiddo
(photo credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

The Megiddo Prison is going to be relocated as early as June to allow archeologists to make an ancient mosaic believed to be part of a Christian prayer house accessible to tourists and allow for further investigation, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said.

The mosaic, believed to be the earliest mosaic dedicated to Jesus, was discovered between 2004 and 2008 beneath the Megiddo Prison by Israeli archaeologist Dr. Yotam Tepper. The mosaic is dated to the 3rd century and is thought to have belonged to a Christian prayer hall. On the mosaic there is a Greek inscription: “to the God Jesus Christ.”

“This structure is interpreted as the oldest Christian prayer house in the world,” the IAA wrote on its Facebook page. “It tells the story of Christianity even before it became official.”

Excavating an ancient mosaic in Megiddo (Credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)Excavating an ancient mosaic in Megiddo (Credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

There were two additional inscriptions in ancient Greek on the mosaic, the IAA said, which testify, among other things, to soldiers from the Roman army who were members of an ancient Christian community. 

Since it was found, Israeli officials have proposed moving the prison to allow archeologists to continue their work, both on the mosaic and to do additional digging. 

The IAA made the announcement on Sunday. Last week, representatives from the IAA, the Israel Prison Service and the Megiddo Regional Council toured the area to discuss moving the prison.

Representatives from the IAA, Megiddo Regional Council and the Israel Prisons Service toured Megiddo Prison (Credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)Representatives from the IAA, Megiddo Regional Council and the Israel Prisons Service toured Megiddo Prison (Credit: YOLI SHWARTZ ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)