Find and Finder of the Month: Brad Schwartz from Seattle Found a Marble Chancel Screen Fragment.

Bradley Schwartz with the chancel screen

Our “Find and finder of the month” is back! We were swamped with activity over the summer and meant to catch up after the holidays. But with the outbreak of the war, the classic Israeli phrase “after the holidays” took on an extended meaning this year, and only now are we getting around to making up for lost time.

Meet Brad Schwartz, who visited us in July. Brad, a grandfather of 9 from the West Coast of the USA told us that already days in advance of his visit he dreamt that he’d make a significant find. And indeed, in the very first bucket he chose, he discovered a fragment of a Byzantine chancel screen.

Most chancel screens discovered in ancient synagogues and churches are made of slabs of stone (mostly marble) adorned with reliefs of various motifs: plants, animals, crosses, biblical scenes, etc., which would separate the congregation from the bemah or pulpit, and like many modern-day houses of worship, the artwork would serve as a backdrop to inspire the prayers of the worshipers. This particular fragment belonged to a smaller group of stone chancel screens whose latticework allowed the worshippers see through it.

Chancel screens were discovered in many ancient synagogues and churches (depicted: the screen from the 6th century synagogue of Gaza). The style of the fragment found by Brad could possibly belong to the Crusader period, but after some consulting with experts, it seems that the Byzantine period is a better fit.

Up until a few years ago, most scholars believed that during the Byzantine period, the Temple Mount stood completely abandoned. This fragment now joins the growing accumulation of evidence dispelling that notion.

To read more about discoveries of the Temple Mount during the Byzantine period, see here.

The chancel screen of the Gaza synagogue, 6th century C.E.

Discover more from The Temple Mount Sifting Project

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