The Anciet Synagogue

From 1969 to 1974 the work of the archaeologists V. Corbo and S. Loffreda focused on the areas underneath the walls and floor of the monumental Byzantine white stone synagogue.

In the excavation trenches on the left flanks of the prayer room, beneath the gallery and the eastern portico, the remains of the residences destroyed to make space for the synagogue were found, showing that the synagogue had not been built on vacant land. These remains consist of stone floors, basalt walls, doors, staircases, water channels and fireplaces.
In contrast, beneath the large central nave a wide basalt cobblestone pavement from the first century AD was found. Based on its dimensions, this must have belonged to a public building, perhaps the actual synagogue built by the Roman centurion, which would explain the continuity in use of the same space for the purpose of worship.

Formidable walls made from squared and well-finished basalt blocks were used for the foundations of the white stone synagogue. The walls supported the perimeter of the prayer room and, in a more discontinuous manner, the internal stylobate within that same room. The Franciscan archaeologists Corbo and Loffredo were in agreement that these walls belonged to the remains of a synagogue that had preceded the fifth century one.
The walls of this synagogue in black basalt are visible today along the external perimeter of the synagogue and represent a different alignment with respect to the white limestone synagogue, which is most apparent at the southwest corner of the structure.

The dating of this synagogue remains a point of contention. Father Corbo believed that it was part of the same first century building to which the basalt cobblestone pavement found under the central nave had belonged, while Father Loffreda thought it represented an intermediate stage between the first and fifth century synagogues.


The Anciet Synagogue