About the project
The Nea Church (New Church of the Virgin Mary or New Church of St. Mary, Mother of God) was consecrated by Emperor Justinian in 543 AD. The church–at the time, one of the largest churches in the Christian world–was linked to the Church of the Holy Seplucher by the Cardo. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th Century. Before 1967, archeologists could only guess at the church’s location, but after 1967, when archeological investigations began in and around the Old City, archeologists identified its location on either side of the Old City walls near the Dung Gate. In 1976, archeologists found six barrel vaults approximately 30 feet high and more than 90 feet wide that they determined to be part of the underground construction of the church and an adjacent hospice and hospital. In 1977, archeologists, led by Professor Nachman Avigad, found a large Greek inscription above a cross that confirmed that construction of the church was attributed to the generosity of Emperor Justinian. At that time, a corner of the church, outside the Old City walls, was incorporated into the Beth Shalom Garden. In the following years, investigative and preservation work continued and in 1988 the restored vaults were incorporated into the Garden of Redemption.