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The Monastery of Saint Martyrius is the biggest monastery built in the Judean Desert in the Byzantine Period. Covering an area of 2.5 acres, this monastery once housed hundreds of monks. It demonstrates best the flourishing of Judean Desert monasticism in antiquity.

History of Martyrius Monastery

Martyrius was a native of Cappadocia, in today’s Turkey. In 457 AD, he joined the Monastery of Saint Euthymius, but at some point, he settled in an isolated cave, living as a hermit. Monks that joined him developed the site into a monastery named after him. Martyrius left the monastery to serve as a priest in the Holy Sepulchre. Eventually, he became the Patriarch of Jerusalem. The Persians attacked and destroyed the monastery in 614 AD, but its final abandonment was after the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land (640 AD).

In the 1980s an Israeli archaeological expedition excavated the monastery. The complex is almost square in shape. Its thick walls and gate complex attest to the protection measurements the monks had to take. The mosaic floors of the monastery’s dining hall and church remain intact. The monastery also operated a pilgrims’ hostel along the road from Jerusalem to Jesus’s baptism site and Mount Nebo.

Touring the Monastery of Martyrius

Today, the Monastery is in the heart of Ma’ale Adumim, a suburb east of Jerusalem. Visiting it must be pre-arranged with Israel’s National Parks Authority. Some of its finds are on display in the Museum in the Good Samaritan Inn.

A tour of Martyrius Monastery will be combined with a day tour of the Dead Sea.

Points of Interest in the Area

The Martyrius monastery is 5 miles west of Euthymius monastery, and 10 miles from the Good Samaritan Inn. These sites combined illustrate well the Byzantine Period Monastic movement in the Judean Desert. If you are fond of Israeli art, within Ma’ale Adumim is the art museum of Israeli painter Moshe Castel.

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