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The Church of the Kathisma on the Jerusalem-Bethlehem Road: Archaeological, Art Historical and Historical Study

Rina Avner, Israel Antiquities Authority, Fellow 2008/09

My project at Dumbarton Oaks was to prepare a manuscript of a comprehensive monograph, complementing the technical archaeological final report (submitted in 2003 to the monograph series IAA Reports), on the Church of the Kathisma situated near Jerusalem. The church was excavated under my direction on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The excavations revealed a large octagonal structure (41x 38 m.) with an unusual complex plan. Three strata were recognized (dated to the 5th, 6th, and 8th century CE). Archaeological evidence indicates that during the 8th century the building was used simultaneously as a mosque within the church.

My goal this year was to update and pursue a thematic expansion of my dissertation, namely, to put the Kathisma within a broader Christian and Islamic context (topics such as: the history of the building; pilgrimage; beginnings of the veneration and cult of the Theotokos in the Holy Land and abroad; mutual influences between Jewish, Christian, and Early Islamic traditions; architecture and art—the influence of the Kathisma on other martyria, including the Dome of the Rock; the artistic influence of the wall mosaic of the Dome of the Rock on two important floor mosaics in the Kathisma).

Besides completing a draft of my projected book, a year of residence at Dumbarton Oaks enabled me to meet and exchange views with different scholars (Dumbarton Oaks staff, fellows, and visiting scholars), thus yielding new ideas for future research.

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