Church of Mary Theotokos (Mount Gerizim)

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The Church of Mary Theotokos on Mount Gerizim was large octagonal church built in the late fifth century on top of Mount Gerizim, the sacred mountain of the Samaritans. The church was built during the reign of Emperor Zeno in the late fifth century.


The Church of Mary Theotokos is located in the area now known as the West Bank, near the town of Nablus. The area is significant in the history of God's peoples and is associated with many events described in the Holy Scriptures. It is the site of the Samaritan's holy mountain and temple.

The most complete record of the origin of the church is from the writings of Procopius of Caesarea who wrote about the revolt of the Samaritans that began with Emperor Zeno's decision to build the church on their holy mountain that was dedicated to Mary the Theotokos. As a result of these ill feelings the church was built within a fortified enclosure. Construction of the church began in 484. It was destroyed during the Arabian invasions of mid seventh century.


The form of the church is that of an octagon typical of the commemorative (martyria) churches of the time. The overall dimensions of the church are about 37 by 30 meters, built in the form of two concentric sets of walls, with the area between the walls forming four chapels, the two closest to the apse being larger than the two western chapels. The center area inside the inner wall constituted the main hall of the church with an apse in its eastern end. Two additional, square rooms flanked the apse.

The church was situated within a rectangular enclosure that measured about 70 by 55 meters and was surrounded by a fortified wall with square towers at each corner. A structure was built against the northern part of the church enclosure that contained the gatehouse.


Yitzhak Magen. The Church of Mary Theotokos on Mt. Gerizim, Ancient Churches Revealed. Yoram Tsafrir, ed. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993. (ISBN 965-221-016-1)

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