Emmaus Nicopolis

Leaving Jerusalem, we follow the main road to Emmaus, a biblical Jewish town that became known as Nicopolis in the late Roman Byzantine period. Here passed Joshua, the Maccabees, Crusades, & Jesus who, according to the New Testament Book of Luke, appeared after Calvary and the Resurrection.

Emmaus Nicopolis: Byzantine & Crusader churches

Emmaus: Byzantine & Crusader church

A real biblical place…
The rich history of Emmaus is marked by the passage of many conquerors and famous people. The Book of Joshua tells how the sun and moon stood still over the adjacent Ayalon Valley when Joshua marched with the Israelites on Gibeon- north of Jerusalem – some 3200 years ago. In 165 BC, Judah Maccabee, one of the important heroes of Hanukkah, won an important victory nearby against the Greek troops of Nicanor. This opened the way to Jerusalem and made it possible for the Jews to purify the Temple which had been desecrated by the Greeks and re-establish the Divine Service, a victory celebrated by the feast of Hannukah every year.

The place where Jesus broke bread
By the time of Jesus’ public ministry (~30 AD) Emmaus had become a simple village. It was here, after the Resurrection, that Jesus appears to his disciples, who recognized Him in the breaking of bread (Lk. 24:13-35).

Byzantine period: Christian pilgrimage
In the 3rd century AD there was a Christian community in Emmaus and the town was given a new name, Nicopolis or City of Nike – Greek goddess of victory. During the Byzantine period (4-7 centuries) Emmaus Nicopolis became an important Christian administrative center and a basilica to serve Christian pilgrims was built at the traditional site of Jesus’ apparition.

Byzantine churches which had earlier been destroyed were built by the Crusaders in the 12th century, and subsequently destroyed after the Arab reconquest of the Holy Land. Impressive remains are still visible.

Modern times
It was only in 1878, at the initiative of Miriam of Bethlehem, that the Carmelite convent of Bethlehem acquired the site. Since then, it has once again become a place of pilgrimage.

Excavations in 1880, 1924, and recent years unearthed the remains of two imposing Byzantine basilicas with beautiful mosaics, a baptistery, and the ruins of a Crusader church.

Gospel according to Luke 24,13-35
“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about a hundred and sixty stadia from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him… So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight…”

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