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St. Stephen’s Church

St. Stephen’s Church and the The École Biblique

St. Stephen’s Church and the The École Biblique are located along the ancient road to Damascus, approximately 1/4 mile outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.   The base of the statue of the St. Stephan, the martyr, marks two dates: 460 C.E. (founding of the ancient Byzantine Church) and 1900 C.E. (founding of the modern church). The modern Dominican monastery and French School for Biblical archaeology (Couvent Saint-Étienne and L’École Biblique et Archéologique Française) sit on the slope of the hill adjacent to the Garden Tomb, in a region of Jerusalem that was once a large necropolis.

This church, re-dedicated in 1900, is based on the remains of fifth-century house the Relics of St. Stephen built by the Empress Eudocia.

St. Stephen

Stephen is believed to have been a Greek Jew, who converted to Christianity.  was the Greek Christian commissioned by the leaders of the Jerusalem church to look after the Greek-speaking poor of the city as part of the church’s mission. He aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech fiercely denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgement on him and was stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus (later better known by his Roman name, Paul), a Pharisee who would later become a follower himself of Jesus and an apostle.

The Original Church

The original church was built by the Empress Eudocia at the end of the fifth century to house the Relics of St. Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, and the adjoining Monastery complex was so large that by the beginning of the sixth century it housed close to 10,000 monks. Having been destroyed in the 12th century by crusaders not wanting to give Salah id-Din a base outside the walls, the new church was re-dedicated in 1900, based considerably upon the remains of the old. The world-famous Ecole Biblique (Bible School) was founded in 1890.

Behind the school, church and library is the cloistered area of the monastery, where one finds added serenity from the hustle and bustle of the Middle Eastern daily life.  Housing for the students and faculty are found here, as is the museum of archaeology. An apartment which serves as the project laboratory is also found in this area of the monastery.

Monastery Graves

Among the graves photographed above are:

Maurice Benoit (3 August 1906 – 23 April 1987), better known as Pierre Benoit, was a French Catholic priest, exegete, and theologian, directed the École from 1964 to 1972. He became involved in archaeological investigations carried out at Christian sites in Jerusalem. One of his most extensive pieces of archaeological work was the thorough and definitive excavation at the site of the Antonia Fortress, and the surrounding area.

Father Roland Guérin de Vaux OP (17 December 1903 – 10 September 1971) was a French Dominican priest who led the Catholic team that initially worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was the director of the Ecole Biblique, a French Catholic Theological School in East Jerusalem, and he was charged with overseeing research on the scrolls. His team excavated the ancient site of Khirbet Qumran (1951–1956) as well as several caves near Qumran northwest of the Dead Sea. The excavations were led by Ibrahim El-Assouli, caretaker of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, or what came to be known as the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem.

At the turn of the present century, in the course of construction work for a Sephardi Hospital, ancient remains were uncovered about a hundred yards west of the Temple Mount. Closer investigation by the Dominican Father Hugo Vincent, a renowned Jerusalem scholar, revealed the ruins of walls and mosaic floors. These he described in an article in the Order’s archaeological journal Revue Biblique (No. XI 1914), suggesting that they formed part of the cherished Nea Church.

There are several tomb complexes, including the one from which the project collection was exhumed.

Address: 6 Nablus Road, Jerusalem 91190

Country: Israel Israel

Telephone: +972-2-6264468

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