Exhibitions/ Art Object

Fragment of a Synagogue Screen with Inscription

6th-7th century
Made in Israel, found at Ashkelon
7 1/16 x 24 x 3 3/4 in. (18 x 61 x 9.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Deutsches Evangelisches Institut für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes, Jerusalem (02-018)
Not on view
The Synagogue at Ashkelon
During the Byzantine period, the synagogue was constructed to promote an atmosphere of sanctity and was often referred to as "the holy place." It featured wall inscriptions and intricately carved reliefs as well as a chancel screen. An innovation adopted from Christian contexts and seen in many synagogues from this period, the screen separated the Holy Ark housing the Torah scrolls, the most sacred part of the synagogue, from the rest of the hall. Fragments of the Ashkelon Synagogue were discovered during the nineteenth century, though no complete structure has ever been excavated.
Dedicatory inscriptions were common in synagogues. This beautifully carved example from the chancel screen refers to the synagogue in Greek as "the holy place." It reads from front to back and includes among the donors Donna, daughter of Julianus; Mari, son of Nonnos; and Master Commodus.
Inscription: [in Greek:] God help Lady Domna, daughter of Ju[lianus, and / LO]RD MARI, SON OF NONNOS, IN GRATI[TUDE] / present. I Mas [ter . . . Gra ]ndson of Helikias [present] / to God and to the Ho[ly places] / FOR MY SALVATION. MASTER COM[MODUS PRESENTS] / FOR MY SALVATION[AND] / my life. The year 709.

*Portions of the text in capital letters are represented in the exhibition.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.