Saint Andrew’s Church in Jericho
In the days of Anba Timotheos, archbishop of the see of Jerusalem from 1899 to 1925, a church and monastery were built in Jericho for Coptic pilgrims on their way to the Jordan. The church was inaugurated in 1924, and the patriarchate in Jerusalem sent some of its monks to live at the monastery. The patriarchate looked for more property, and in 1935 a piece of land was purchased in the place that was believed to be the site of the house of Zacchaeus, in which he received Jesus (Lk. 19:2). When the place was cleared, the remains of a Byzantine church of Saint Andrew were discovered.
The Church of Saint Andrew lies in the southwest of Jericho, on the north bank of al-Qalt valley. On arriving at Jericho from Jerusalem, one reaches the remains of the church by walking along the first street to the west after crossing the bridge of the Al-Qalt valley. At the southern end of the street, there is a small monastery of five rooms set in the middle of an orchard, where usually one or more Coptic monks live. Among the Roman monuments, there is a pool that was apparently once used for fishing. There is also a water reservoir and two others to the west.
Saint Andrew’s Church was built sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries, like all the Byzantine churches in the area. The antiquity of this church is proved by the mosaic that covers its floor, this being of the black and white unrefined kind used in the first centuries of Christianity. The church was damaged by the Persians in 614. It seems that it was one of the first churches reached by pilgrims, monks, and hermits who spread into the al-Qalt valley at this time. Today there are still monasteries and hermit caves in the area.
Mosaic covers the floors of the building that was constructed over the ruins of Saint Andrew’s Church. It seems that Saint Andrew’s Church was built over a cemetery, for many ancient tombs can be seen in the vicinity.
The mosaic contains two Greek inscriptions. The first consists of six lines, while the second contains ten lines. The first reads: “Magnianos the soldier thanks Saint Andrew. The mosaic is made with the help of the priest Heraclios and Constantinos the deacon and Polikhronios.”
Polikhronios is probably the name of the artist who made the mosaic. Presumably, Magnianos caused the church to be built after his prayers had been answered by Saint Andrew.
The second inscription is on a tombstone and reads, “Here rests the blessed Triphon, the servant of Jesus, who died on 20 February, on the fifth day of the tenth decade.” The date given would be Thursday, 20 February 592.
Prayers are now conducted over a mobile altar, which is put in one of the rooms before prayers. In view of the religious and archaeological importance of the church, the patriarch of the see of Jerusalem and the Near East decided to establish a large church on the top floor of the same building dedicated to Saint Andrew, and to maintain and preserve the mosaics in the floor of the original church.