A Very Rare Monastery Seal From Crusades-Era Found in Jerusalem. An 800-year-old lead seal that dates back to the Crusades was found in a Byzantine-era farmstead in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.
The governmental body, which aims to preserve the integrity of historical sites, said the seal is “an extraordinarily rare find, because no such seal has ever been discovered to date.”
In 2012, the IAA conducted two archaeological digs at an Arab village called Horbat Mizmil in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood, which is now slated for development. It’s common practice in Israel for new development sites to be examined for antiques, and it was here that they found the remains of the farmstead — and eventually the seal.
Through excavating the site, archaeologists learned it had been abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period. The site was later resettled during the Crusades period between the 11th and 13th centuries, and the seal was ultimately found in a Crusades-era layer of the dig site.
The IAA’s Robert Kool and Jean-Claude Cheynet, a professor at Paris-Sorbonne University, examined the seal, which is reportedly in excellent condition. They identified it as a seal stamped by the Monastery of St. Sabbas (also known as the “Great Laura”). One side of the seal bears the image of St. Sabbas, while the other side features a Greek inscription that reads: “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabbas.”
St. Sabbas was one of the most important and influential figures in Jerusalem during the Byzantine era. He started several monasteries, but his greatest achievement was founding the Monastery of St. Sabbas — the only monastery in the Judean Desert that is still inhabited by monks.
And if finding an 800-year-old seal wasn’t enough, a document from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre’s archives mentions a farming settlement called Thora, whose location is unknown. However, the excavated farmstead could be the settlement, which was sold to the monastery in the 12th century.
“The [St. Sabbas] 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,” Kool said in a statement. “The monastery had numerous properties, and this farm may have been part of the monastery’s assets during the Crusader period.”