DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     July 9, 1998     vol. 9, no. 133

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          AQABA, Jordan (CWNews.com) - Archaeologists said on Wednesday that they may have discovered the oldest remains of a Christian church in the world during an excavation in Jordan.

          American archaeologist Thomas Parker said the church sat a few hundred yards from the Red Sea in the Christian community of Ayla, a Roman city damaged by earthquake, around 350 AD. Parker, a professor of history at North Carolina State University, said his team of archaeologists had found no conclusive proof in four years of work that the monument was a church, nor could they date it absolutely. But circumstantial evidence at the site leads to that conclusion, including the size of the building, it orientation to the east, proximity to a cemetery, and architectural similarities to ancient churches in Egypt.

          Parker said the building must have been built between the late third and early fourth centuries, judging by fragments of pottery and coins found at the site. The coins, the latest of which were minted in the reign of Constantius II between 337 and 361 AD, may have fallen from a collection box during an earthquake, leaving dramatic evidence of the church's final moments, he said. "We think this reflects the catastrophic end of the church in an earthquake that is attested in 363 AD."

          Meanwhile in Metztitlan, Mexico, a revered 17th-century painting of the Virgin and Child was destroyed in a fire in one of the western hemisphere's oldest churches on Tuesday.

          The Temple of the Holy Kings, built in the 1500s, suffered only minor damage from fire started by a candle, but the painting of the Virgin del Carmen and the Child Jesus, painted in 1690 by Spinoza, was lost.

          The parish priest spotted smoke in the church and sounded the bells to summon parishioners to put out the flames, but there efforts were only partially successful. The church's damage was reportedly superficial.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 9, 1998       volume 9, no. 133


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